Colonoscopy: Bariatric surgery patients must get alternative prep

November 12, 2013 | by

Weight-loss surgery means sacrificing sweets and making major lifestyle changes. It doesn't mean having to skip colorectal cancer screenings.

Bariatric surgery is effective for weight loss because it restricts the amount of food or liquid a person can consume, often through banding or surgical alteration of  the stomach. But preparation for a colonoscopy usually requires drinking a large amount of liquid twice a day. Even though these preparations have become easier over time, and the amount of liquid is smaller, the quantities can be a lot for a weight-loss surgery patient to swallow.

In response to the news that one in three people recommended for potentially lifesaving colorectal cancer screening skip it, one City of Hope Facebook follower raised an excellent question, asking:  “What about people who have had bariatric surgery and drinking or consuming anything in large quantities is not doable?”

Donald David, M.D., chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at City of Hope, responded:

“Alternate preparations are available for bariatric surgery patients so that they may also receive colorectal cancer screenings, including colonoscopy. For example, it’s possible to drink the prep over a longer period of time. There are also 'pill preps' available, in which the patient takes 32 pills over a course of a day, usually taking four pills with a glass of water. Consult your doctor to address your specific needs related to your surgery, but colonoscopies are definitely possible – and encouraged – for bariatric surgery patients.”

So, even if you’ve had weight loss surgery, make an appointment for colorectal cancer screening if you're age 50 or so.

Watch the recent news story above about the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.