Colonoscopies save lives – get yours behind you…PLEASE!

Colon cancer is a disease that is top of mind for my family right now. Just this past December, my 82-year-old great-aunt was diagnosed with colon cancer. In her situation, the cancer is terminal, but that doesn’t have to be the case for everyone. Take a minute or two during Colon Cancer Awareness Month to know the symptoms and the early detection procedures, mainly the colonoscopy.

The American Cancer Society reports that the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20.  With the genders added together, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in USA.  While those two statistics sound scary, the good news is that the number of deaths is going down each year much because of people knowing their risk factors and early prevention with the colonoscopy.

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Certain risk factors, like age, family history, and personal medical history should be discussed with your doctor when determining your personal risk of colon cancer.  Your doctor can recommend at what age it’s most appropriate to have a colonoscopy.

In general, colonoscopies are recommended for people age 50 or older.  In my case, because of some medical issues, I was recommended to have a colonoscopy at age 33.

The procedure itself is really nothing.  I was given some medicine to sleep through the entire thing and had to take it easy for the rest of the day.  The day before required some prep with fasting, consuming only clear fluids, and doing a cleanse to make sure everything was cleared out of my system.  To be honest, that part wasn’t the most pleasant, but it was over quickly and I knew it would make it easier for the doctor to do his job.

In the end, my report came back great and I don’t need to repeat the process for some time.

My dad had his first colonoscopy about 3 years ago and after having found a small, benign polyp, it was recommended that he have one 3 years later.  He had his second colonoscopy just a couple months ago and a small, pre-cancerous polyp was removed.  Because it was so small, it was able to be removed during the procedure and won’t cause him any harm.  He’ll have to repeat the procedure again in a few years, but I couldn’t be more grateful that he had it done.

I really wish that, years ago when I asked her to, my aunt would have also gone to have a colonoscopy.

My aunt had risk factors, but she ignored them.  Her father died over 50 years ago of colon cancer.  She often complained of stomach discomfort and had been losing weight without trying.  But no matter how much we all asked her to, she wouldn’t get a colonoscopy.  Unfortunately for herself and all of us, she didn’t do what she could to detect her cancer earlier.  It’s now stage 4 and has metastasized.

I hope that, by sharing my family’s story, you’ll understand the importance of talking to your doctor and, if requested, get a colonoscopy.  Check out the American Cancer Society and Mayo Clinic’s websites for more information about colorectal cancer and, I’ll mention it one more time, talk to your doctor.

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