It's a non-gardening post today, but I wanted to put the word out about a cancer no one likes to talk about, colon cancer. My grandpa died of colon cancer 19 years ago this past July. It was a death that may have been prevented had he gone in for proper screening, or when he first realized he was having problems. It was very painful to watch my grandpa waste away to nothing. I can still remember sitting in my grandparent's living room with all of my family, and my grandpa's skin yellowed from the cancer moving into his liver. When my grandpa died we found a bunch of medications stashed away in the bathroom which made us realize he knew something was wrong, but was too embarrassed to go to the doctor.
It's a coincidence that a report came out on Thursday, the day before I was going in for a colonoscopy, that only 1 in 5 doctors follow the colon cancer screening guidelines. Doctors are both under and over prescribing colonoscopies. My new Gastroentreologist was very surprised that I was having my second colonoscopy for my age until he found out about my family history.
For a person without a family history of colon cancer, routine colon cancer screening should start at age 50. Should being the key word in that sentence. My people I talk to say that they have never had a colonoscopy because they don't want anyone touching them "there". That makes me wonder how many people do not have colonoscopies because, like my grandpa, they are too embarrassed of the procedure? I'm here to tell you it's not that bad. The worst part of the procedure is the day before when you have to cleanse your system, and even that has greatly improved since the last time I had one 5 years ago. Unlike the last time I had the procedure, everything I needed for my prep could be purchased over the counter. This was a huge improvement, since the prescription they made you drink before tasted like pure salt water and was hard to choke down. The day before the procedure you are only allowed a liquid diet. That means jello, broth, soda, water, etc as long as it's not purple or red. Half way through the afternoon you are asked to take stool softening laxatives. Then sometime in the early evening you are asking to mix a powdered laxative with Gatorade or Crystal Light, and then drink 8oz of this mixture every 10-15 minutes until gone. It tasted just like Gatorade, so I had no problem drinking this solution. Then be prepared to use the bathroom! Hopefully, unlike me you have more than one bathroom in your house. It's also a great idea to buy wet wipes and have them on hand. It's really not as bad as it sounds. Then the next day you go in for the procedure. You are asked to lay on your side, and they put some wonderful medicine in your IV that makes you very sleepy. Some people are awake for the procedure, but I'm guessing most people sleep like a baby right through it. The colonoscopy itself only takes about 10 minutes. I was awake during the procedure, but honestly I can't remember anything. Then they move you to the post-op room, give you something to drink, and the doctor comes in and explains everything they found to you and a family member (since you won't remember more than likely). Then it's time to get dressed and someone can drive you home. Yes, it's that simple. I usually go home afterwards, have a really nice nap, and then ask my husband what happened that morning. Nothing to be afraid or embarrassed by, that's for sure. During my screening the doctor found a polyp, and so it's being sent to the lab for tests. They found some the last time too, so I am not worried. However, this is exactly the reason why you have a colonoscopy. If polyps go on undetected and not removed they can turn cancerous.
So be proactive, if you have colon cancer in your family, or you are at the age when you should begin screening, remind your doctor if he/she has not prescribed a screening. My grandpa's life could have been spared had he been proactive. My grandpa was a wonderful man, and I still wonder what it would have been like to know him as an adult.