Monday, September 30, 2013

That Test We Don't Want to Talk About

A few years ago a man on my street died.  He was about my age and left a widow and three children in high school or younger.  He died of colon cancer.  Today I learned that someone else I know has advanced colon cancer.  He has a wife and two children at home.

The standard test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy and both men and women are encouraged to have it done when they are 50 thereabouts.  The procedure involves inserting a camera into the rectum to examine the colon.  The patient is under sedation during the procedure.  I recently had my baseline colonoscopy, a few years after my 50th birthday.  The procedure itself is not bad, the sedation kicks in immediately and wears off quickly.  Patients stay in the office for a short time afterwards, then they can leave.  A driver / responsible party has to stay in the doctor's office for the entire procedure.  I was out within a couple of hours.

The preparation is the hard part.  The proctologist who performs the procedure wants a patient's colon to be as cleaned out as possible.  The evening before I had it done I had to drink a lot of water and a cup of an unpleasant tasting liquid.  Knowing I would spend a lot of time in the bathroom I downloaded a new novel onto my Kindle, W is for Wasted (no pun intended) and settled in.  It's a little messy but not horrible.  The next morning I drank another cup of the prep liquid.  I went to the doctor's office around 1 and was home in a couple of hours.  No muss no fuss.  The doctor was able to tell me immediately how things looked.  Mine was okay.

Since colon cancer is slow growing a colonoscopy is only needs to be done every 10 years (5 years for some).  So, dear reader, if you are 50 or older (younger with a family history of colon cancer), and haven't had a baseline colonoscopy done, please call and schedule one as quickly as possible.  It's a little undignified but not as uncomfortable as a paper smear or physical therapy.

Save a life (yours) and save your family a great deal of uncertainty and grief, get a colonoscopy.

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