If you're 50 or older, get a colonoscopy

By Steve Schmutz

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 12 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT


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Uh huh, you guessed it: This post is about getting my colonoscopy.

I turned 50 last November. My gift to myself was to get a colonoscopy. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, but I'm not kidding. I'm writing this article for all of you who are getting to that age, or have passed that age but haven't gone in yet, so you'll know what to expect and why you should have this done.

Why you should get a colonoscopy

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer cases. According to the American Cancer Society, there were an estimated 141,210 cases of colorectal cancer in 2011 in the United States.

Coloractal cancer can almost always be detected by a colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. It just doesn't make sense to not get screened. The procedure can literally save your life.

This is my experience, and why I think everyone should give themselves (and their families) this gift.

Here's the "bottom" line: It's not that bad.

The day before

This is when the fun begins. You'll need to either buy some stuff called Suprep (other brands are Moviprep, Golytely and Nulytely), or a combination of Miralax and Dulcolax to cleanse your colon. I haven't done definitive price comparisons, but the latter combo is less expensive. Unfortunately for me, I didn't know that until after I purchased the Suprep, and of course, pharmacies won't let you return anything so I was stuck. The Suprep cost me $73 after insurance.

  • Stage 1: Drinking the cleanser

My surgery was scheduled for a Friday morning, so my prep began Thursday. I ate a light breakfast, then at 8 a.m. I drank my first power-mojo-cleanser. I mixed a bottle of the stuff (about 12 ounces) with 16 ounces of water.

I drained it in one motion — none of this "toe in the water" stuff. I opened my mouth, tilted back my head and guzzled it. It's the only way to go.

It actually wasn't that bad; kind of like sour gatorade. I was expecting a terrible after-taste, but there really was none. So, that was Stage 1: Easy.

  • Stage 2: Drinking water

You have to drink 32 ounces of water within one hour of drinking the colon-cleanser. I drink a lot of liquids anyway, so this part wasn't that big of a deal. When my wife goes through this, she'll have a tough time with this stage. She can get to the end of a meal without taking a single sip of water. Me? I've gone through two or three Diet Cokes with my chips and salsa — and that's before the my enchiladas are even served, so drinking 32 ounces wasn't a big deal. Stage 2: Easy.

  • Stage 3: The void begins

This is where the real fun begins. Keep in mind that you are fasting at this point — at least from food, and any liquid that has pulp-type stuff. Sodas, water and some non-pulp juices are OK.

About 30 minutes or so after guzzling the Suprep my stomach starting making serious noises. It sounded like a thunderstorm was going on down there. I will spare you the details; suffice it to say that the cleanser started to do its job.

Doctors warn you that you might need to basically camp out in the bathroom. That wasn't my experience. I have an office in my home, and could safely get my work done without risking a disaster. I did spend a fair amount of time going back and forth to the throne, but honestly, it wasn't that bad. Stage 3: Could've been worse.

  • Stages 4, 5 and 6: Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

These steps are a repeat. At about 7 p.m. I drank the next batch of cleanser. Same deal: mix with water, guzzle it down and then drink 32 ounces of water within an hour.

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