Bottoms Up – Get Your Colonoscopy for Colon Cancer Screening

It’s the birthday present no 50 year old should cringe receiving: the colonoscopy. I can name 10 people off the top of my head that I know of who have had their routine colonoscopy this past year after turning 50, another dozen or so that I’ve been nagging to get one, a handful of those not yet 50 who were recommended to get one (me included) and 2 that, if they hadn’t, would be in far worse shape.

Colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the US and is the second leading cause of cancer death when you look at both American men and women.  There is a lifetime risk of 1 in 20 that a person may develop colorectal cancer.  This sounds like such terrible statistics, I know, but the encouraging fact is that the number of deaths resulting from colon cancer has dropped and continues to drop each year due  to early screening and detection.  And what’s the best way to get screened?  The colonoscopy!

The Dictionary.com definition of a colonoscopy is the “visual inspection of the interior of the colon with a flexible, lighted tube inserted through the rectum.”  Okay now, stop squirming.  It’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds.  In fact, you never even realize what’s going on.

Last summer, I had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy because of some abdominal issues.  The prep work the day before will take more consideration on your part than the actual procedure.  I was put on a special diet the day before the procedure and had to drink the ever wonderful Gatorade with laxative mixed in.  Okay, so that part wasn’t so pleasant, but it’s over relatively quickly.

The day of the procedure, I arrived at my doctor’s office where there’s an attached clinic.  I got an IV, then was brought into the exam room.  I talked to the doctor and the nurse briefly and the last thing I remember is the doctor laughing at a joke I told and saying “good night.”  The next thing I knew, I was in recovery.  That was it!  All done and the doctor was there to tell me my results.

The endoscopy showed what some of my stomach issues were (a story for another time), but I never anticipated that they would have found a polyp.  It was small and the doctor removed it for biopsy.  In my case, everything was benign and I am so grateful for having gone through the procedure.

I know of two of my friends’ husbands that didn’t get such a clean report.  Both have family history of colon cancer and should have gone in for screening much sooner.  Both men had to have much of their colon removed as well as the large polyps and tumors.  Both wish they had listened to their doctors and wives and gotten screened sooner.

Generally, people are encouraged to get their colonoscopy at age 50.  If there is family history of colorectal cancer, though, a person may need earlier screening.  If you’re not sure which group you fall into, talk to your doctor.

So which person are you?  Are you among those I’m virtually high-fiving right now for having gotten screened?  Or are you among the ones that I’m going to have to nag some more?  Take a deep breath and call your doctor today.  After it’s all said and done, you’ll be wondering why on earth you didn’t do it sooner.

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