Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men

Experts offer advice on how to get ready for a colonoscopy

SUNDAY, Nov. 16, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Women may have a harder time prepping for colonoscopy than men, a new study suggests.

Patients must empty their colon to increase the rate of success in the procedure, in which a doctor uses a flexible camera to search for polyps or lesions along the entire length of the colon. This poses problems for women, who are more likely to suffer constipation and/or irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause gas, bloating, and abdominal pain or spasm, according to a report in the November issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

To help, the publication suggests:

  • Receiving and completely reviewing your colonoscopy prep instructions well before the procedure date. They will require that certain medications and foods be stopped up to a week ahead of time.
  • Block out time and arrange for privacy to complete the prep with as little stress as possible. Clear your schedule, be at home to start your prep, and stay close to the bathroom.
  • Improve bad-tasting liquid prep with non-carbonated soft drink powders (such as Crystal Light or Kool-Aid but not red, blue, or purple). Drink it chilled through a straw so the liquid lands far back on your tongue or hold a lemon slice under your nose while you drink the prep.
  • Keep a variety of clear liquids in addition to water on hand to drink before, during and after your bowel prep.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about screening methods for colon cancer.

SOURCE: Harvard Health Publications, news release, November 2008
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