Marcos Breton

Connecting the dots on issues, people and news in the Sacramento region

Marcos Breton: They may be inconvenient, but colonoscopies save lives

03/26/2014 12:00 AM

03/25/2014 8:02 PM

If you read this early Wednesday morning, I’ll be on an operating table while undergoing a medical procedure that could save my life – the same one that could save your life.

As I write this, I’m starving. I fasted all day Tuesday while drinking only clear liquids and eating see-through food such as lime-green Jell-O, which really has no properties at all save for an artificial sweetener.

The day before a colonoscopy is always the longest because you fast and then you purge whatever is in your system with the help of medication. You do this because a doctor needs to have a clear view of your colon to seek and remove polyps that could be cancerous.

So, why have a colonoscopy?

You do the procedure because colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in America, according to the American Cancer Society.

You do the procedure because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6 of every 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could have been prevented.

More than 50,000 Americans die from this disease every year, according to the CDC.

And the numbers suggest that more than 20 million Americans are not up to date on colorectal cancer screening.

I’ve been a broken record on this issue this month – with March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month – in the hope of demystifying a process some avoid because it frightens them.

Trust me: I lost my mother to this disease, and the memory of that harrowing experience is far more frightening than the procedure I’m undergoing Wednesday morning.

The recommended age for colorectal screenings is 50 to 75, but I started earlier because my family’s medical history put me in a higher-risk group.

Since my last column on this subject nearly a month ago, several people told me in emails and voicemails that they knew of people with colon cancer who had contracted the disease well shy of 50.

Others told me that their doctors recommended against a colonoscopy even though they were over 50. I’m not a doctor, but I know what my doctor told me: A colonoscopy is the gold standard of colorectal screenings. Other tests aren’t as comprehensive.

I don’t need the gold standard in a car, but I do want the gold standard for a procedure that could save my life.

Some of the key symptoms of colorectal cancer are unexplained weight loss, bleeding or pain in the abdomen.

My “greatest generation” mom was stoic to the end – by the time she spoke up about her symptoms it was too late.

I don’t have any of the symptoms, and you know what? I still could have the disease. It’s why I’m getting tested Wednesday and why I fasted all day Tuesday.

Life is precious. Get the test.

About This Blog

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton, and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a native of Northern California and the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Contact Marcos Breton at mbreton@sacbee.com or 916-321-1096.
Twitter: @MarcosBreton
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