Why a Colonoscopy is So Much More with IBD
Last updated: March 2023
It's no surprise, people can't stand the thought of getting a colonoscopy. Whether it's your 60-year-old dad, your grandma or... yourself.
Unfortunately for those of us with inflammatory bowel disease, undergoing a colonoscopy is not something we can hold off on until we're past middle age. For me, I had my first one when I was 21, in the middle of my worst flare... to confirm I had Crohn's disease.
Why a colonoscopy is so dreadful with Crohn's
Now at age 34, I'm already dreading the colonoscopy I scheduled in January. It's not the procedure. It's not getting an IV or not being able to eat in the days leading up. For me, it's so much more.
Most people don't have a care in the world when they get rolled in for a colonoscopy. It's just a normal, preventative test. For us - this test can show we have inflammation, active disease, that we need to be hospitalized... or the worst case, that we have colon cancer.
Checking for colon cancer annually because of Crohn's
I found it interesting that at a recent appointment with my gastroenterologist, she told me she doesn't make me get annual colonoscopies because she thinks I have active disease.
She screens on a yearly basis to make sure I don't have colon cancer. Oh, how reassuring. According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, once you have battled IBD for more than 8 years or if you have more than 1/3 of your colon involved, you are at greater risk for cancer.1
I've battled Crohn's for more than 12 years, so I get it. It's not a run-of-the-mill test for me. It's part of what I need to do to take the reins and make sure we can catch an issue before or while it's happening, rather than when it's too late.
The prep is the worst part of a colonoscopy
For me, I find fasting and only having liquids for 72 hours before the prep helps ease the experience. Granted, I am starving for three days and probably a little more "hangry" than I'd like to be.
Now that I have a baby, the experience prepping for this is really going to be interesting! Don't worry, I plan to write about it.
I always throw up from the prep, no matter how hard I try not to. I've heard you can ask for a nausea medication if you have this problem, so you can have it on hand while doing the prep.
I plan to ask this time around. It's not a good feeling when you throw up and wonder if you got enough of the prep in or not.
Fasting and then being able to eat after a colonoscopy
My husband is fantastic and actually fasts with me – if he eats a meal, he leaves the house and when he comes home he doesn't even tell me where he went. He rubs my back and helps hold my hair when I'm on the bathroom floor in the early morning hours before the test. He holds my hand as they're getting me prepped and is there by my bed the moment I wake up and open my eyes.
My husband even scopes out restaurants on Yelp and we go for a hearty breakfast afterward. The feeling of eating after a colonoscopy (as long as you're not in the hospital) is incredible. He's amazing.
He helps make the whole ordeal so much better. If you can have a family member or friend be there by your side, it makes a world of difference. Especially when you're told the results of the test.
A colonoscopy is necessary and we will get through it
Just like everything along the IBD journey, those tough (disgusting!) moments are fleeting. You'll get through. We always do, don't we?
As long as I find out I'm cancer-free and that I don't have to change my medications or be hospitalized, I'm golden. Use the test as a way of giving yourself peace of mind.
You're doing everything in your power to get answers and be proactive. And before you know it, it will be time to do it all over again.
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