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Reviewed 6/3/2022

Colonoscopy prep quiz

A colonoscopy can help detect colorectal cancer early, when it is highly treatable, or prevent cancer from even starting by removing precancerous polyps. Before the test, you'll need to take steps to cleanse your colon. This may sound unpleasant, but learning the facts may help put your mind at ease. Take this quiz to better understand why prep is important and how to do it.

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Q: If you don't do bowel prep correctly and completely, your colonoscopy may not be as accurate.

A: TRUE. Your colon must be completely clean when your doctor examines it. If your colon is not cleansed, your doctor may have difficulty seeing any cancers or precancerous polyps during the colonoscopy. This is why it's very important to perform the bowel prep exactly as your doctor says.

If your colon isn't properly cleansed, your doctor may advise you to have a repeat colonoscopy sooner than expected.

Q: Chilling the bowel prep solution makes it easier to take.

A: TRUE. Bowel preparation often involves drinking a liquid that will help empty your colon. The solution might go down easier if you refrigerate it first or drink it through a straw. Another tip for making the solution easier to drink is to try sucking on lemon slices or sugar-free menthol candies in between sips. If you get an upset stomach or have trouble taking the solution for any reason, call your doctor's office for more tips.

Q: You must drink the bowel prep solution all at once.

A: FALSE. You usually have several hours to drink the solution. In fact, your doctor might have you drink part of the solution the evening before your colonoscopy and the rest the morning of your procedure. This approach, called split-dosing, may give the best colonoscopy results. You may have to get up very early to drink the second dose. Your doctor will give you specific instructions for how and when to take your bowel prep.

Q: You'll need to avoid solid foods at least one day before your colonoscopy.

A: TRUE. While you will need to avoid solid foods, you can have gelatin (Jell-O is one brand name) and frozen sherbet desserts that aren't red.

Q: You should drink fewer fluids during your bowel prep.

A: FALSE. You actually need to drink more fluids than usual during bowel prep. This will help you clean out the colon and avoid side effects, like nausea. Liquids that you can drink before a colonoscopy include water, chicken or vegetable broth, and apple or white grape juice. Avoid red and purple liquids. It's also OK to drink coffee or tea without milk.

You will need to stop drinking all fluids at some point before your colonoscopy—usually a few hours before your exam. Your doctor's instructions should tell you when to do that.

Learn more about colorectal cancer—including some things that can raise your risk—by taking our colorectal cancer quiz.

Take the quiz.

Sources: American Cancer SocietyAmerican College of GastroenterologyAmerican Society for Gastrointestinal EndoscopyUpToDate

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