Nearly 90 percent of people say that prepping for a colonoscopy is what scares them the most about this important test. They may have heard horror stories from their friends, or simply imagine that frequent trips to the bathroom are not something they’re interested in.

But there’s good news: Colonoscopy prep has improved over the last five years.

Here’s why. According to Dr. Joseph Ianello, a gastroenterologist at Hartford Hospital’s Digestive Health Center, today’s prep involves drinking about half as much liquid as it used to.

“We’ve done as much as we can to make this better,” he said. “Patients do not have to drink the gallon jug of liquid they may remember. The majority of people respond to half-liter preps. We’re working every day to keep the volume low.”

Doctors have patients drink half the evening before their test and the other half the next morning, not all at once, like it used to be.

The second thing people comment on is the taste. There are now some flavor options like grape, mango and fruit punch. Most preps are mixed with water, but depending on which kind your doctor prescribes, you may also be able to mix your prep with Gatorade or flavored water.

There are several preps available on the market, and some differ in the way they work. “Doctors take many things into account when they make their decision. For example, some may not be ideal for people with kidney or heart problems,” said Dr. Ianello.

And what about a prep in the form of a pill? There is one pill prep available; however, the oral version was taken off the market for being unsafe for the kidneys.

When it comes to colonoscopy, Dr. Ianello says the two most important things are a good prep and the doctor taking his or her time during the procedure.

“When the colon is clean, the exam is better, and it’s more likely we can tell people to come back at the proper time, which is either 3, 5 or 10 years,” he said.”

Medical advances happen every day. Companies who work on colonoscopy prep are continuing to find ways to decrease the volume of liquid patients have to drink. Still, the prep is not a good reason to put off having your colonoscopy. Colonoscopy, which uses a flexible tube called a colonoscope with an attached camera to examine the  large intestine and rectum, is the single best way we can prevent and detect colon cancer. No prep is scarier than a cancer diagnosis.

To learn more about colonoscopy and schedule one at a Digestive Health Center location near you, click here.