When it comes to detecting and preventing colon cancer, no screening option is more effective than a colonoscopy. Follow these steps to lessen the anxiety and make your colonoscopy more comfortable.

1. Get scheduled.

January 2012 Wall CalendarSometimes, the worst part of a colonoscopy is making the decision to get one then picking up the phone to make the appointment. When scheduling, keep in mind that you will need to take two days off from work, one for the prep day and one for the test.

On prep day, you will need to be close to a bathroom.

On test day, your sedation choice may make it unsafe for you to drive or perform work duties. Be sure to have a friend or family member available for transportation to and from your colonoscopy.

 Bonus Tip: Schedule the colonoscopy for Monday morning, then you may only miss one day of work and can do the prep on Sunday.

2. Get prepped.

A clean colon makes it easier to find and remove polyps. GI doctors and clinics may have different protocols, be sure to follow the instructions from your physician and clarify any confusion with your health care provider in advance.

In most cases, cleansing the digestive tract means eating white foods for several days prior and a clear liquid diet on the day before.  Stock your kitchen with items like:

  • Mashed_potatoes200white rice, pasta, and bread
  • mashed potatoes (no skins)
  • canned fruits and veggies
  • clear fruit juices (apple is best)
  • Jell-o (but avoid red, blue, or purple coloring)
  • clear soft drinks (like Sierra Mist or 7-up, many clinics even allow root beer!)
  • coffee and tea (no milk or creamer)
  • broth

 Bonus Tip: Limit your meat consumption for a few days before to ensure the prep your doctor prescribes is effective and works quickly.

Your physician will prescribe a liquid laxative. Unfortunately many people find the solution disagreeable. To help the drink go down:

  • Keep the fluid cold
  • Drink through a straw placed at the back of the mouth
  • Suck on tart hard candies or lemon to mute the taste

 Bonus Tip: If the instructions are to mix with another drink (like Gatorade) don’t mix the drink with your favorite flavor – it will no longer be your favorite!



Being close to a bathroom on prep day is essential. Many people find using moistened wipes instead of toilet paper makes the process more comfortable.

 Bonus Tip: Apply hemorrhoid cream (or even diaper rash ointment) before starting the prep to protect your skin and ease some discomfort. Then reapply as often as needed.

3. Get zen.

yogaBeing relaxed on test day is important. Increased anxiety or fear can make the scoping process less comfortable. Good communication is key. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about sedation, the test process, or managing discomfort.

After your colonoscopy, be sure to ask questions about the results. Your physician will let you know if there were any polyps or signs of cancer. And finally, find out you should have your next colonoscopy or if there are any further steps you need to take.

 Bonus Tip: Bring a friend or loved one with you to the test, they will help you stay relaxed and then join you for a bite to eat after the colonoscopy. You will be hungry!

Next >> Colon cancer and Genetics

Information on these pages is provided for informational purposes only. Consult your own physician before making any medical decisions.