Today, I believe that I will talk about something that no one wants to hear about, something that is taboo – a colonoscopy. I want to do this because I believe it is something that people in my age bracket (over 50) need to hear about.
The first thing you should know is that I am not a medical practitioner, nor am I a specialist of any kind. I am just a normal, average 59-year-old male. I can only share with you what I have read and what I have experienced. The reason I am doing this is so that maybe some of you will stop looking at this as a taboo subject and take the plunge (no pun intended). If you are over 50, you should be screened!
The National Cancer Institute tells us that this year (2012) there will be an estimated 103,170 cases of colon cancer and 40,290 cases of rectal cancer, and there will be an estimated 51,690 deaths from colon and rectal cancer combined in the United States.
Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older. In the United States, it is the third most common cancer for men and women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. If everybody aged 50 or older had regular screening tests,screening tests, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Now that is a significant number to say the least!
In January of this year, I experienced a colonoscopy first hand. A colonoscopy is the standard screening test for colorectal cancer. It was not nearly as bad as what I had anticipated. In fact, it was sort of like taking medicine when you are a child – not nearly as bad after you swallow it.
The whole procedure started the day before with a limited diet – all liquid. Then came the “cleanse” about 6PM the evening before the procedure. To me, this was actually the worst part of the entire event. You have to drink about one half to three quarters gallon of a liquid laxative within a certain time period. It has a taste that reminded me of alka-seltzer without the fizz. Everything was going very well for the first three of four glasses. I was just getting more and more full of the liquid. About the fifth glass it hit me – literally! I had to go to the bathroom immediately (actually I ran). From this point on I would drink the glass full, run for the bathroom, then get back just in time to drink another glass. You have to keep this up until you are passing clear liquid. At first you don’t think there is any way that it will ever be clear, but believe me it will make you squeaky clean!
The next morning I was at the hospital bright and early, ready for the big test. Now here is the best part of it all – they gave me a drug that put me in la,la land within 5 minutes. Really, it was great. The last thing I remember was the nurse telling me to roll over on my left side, and draw my knees up. The next thing I remember was waking up in my room. It was not painful, although it seemed like there was some pressure that I felt. The most embarrassing part was passing air. You see, they “inflate” your bowels with air so the doctor can see every part of the colon, and what goes in must come out. Everybody does it, you will neither be the first, nor will you be the last.
After I was fully awake, the doctor came into my room and told me that he had removed two polyps. He said I would get the report within a couple of days, but he did not believe there was anything to worry about. When the report came back it showed that one polyp did have some pre-cancerous cells, but it had been totally removed. The other polyp was okay. Now instead of ten years until my next colonoscopy, I will need to have one in five years.
I am glad that I had this procedure. It might just have saved my life. Now, what about you? Remember, it is not taboo if it can save your life! Just do it!