In a few weeks, I’m scheduled to have a colonoscopy – a reminder of being in a higher-risk group for colorectal cancer because the disease took my mother’s life in 1998.
According to statistics complied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year and more than 50,000 people die from it.
Experts say the numbers could be improved, but an estimated 22 million Americans are not up to date with a colorectal cancer screening. If you are one of these people between the ages of 50 and 75, here is a question to ponder:
Are you crazy?
A colonoscopy could save your life. The CDC estimates that six of every 10 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented in men and women over 50 if they were screened routinely.
To our everlasting regret, my mother was not screened. We found out too late. We didn’t know that of cancers afflicting men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the CDC
This week, a family member had a colonscopy that took only about 20 minutes. She was in recovery for about 30 minutes and then had breakfast and felt well enough to carry on as if it were any other day.
She also has peace of mind and a bill of health so clean, she doesn’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years.
For me and many others, a screening is recommended once every five years – for others it’s more frequent.
With colorectal cancer, you sometimes experience symptoms – bleeding, unexplained weight loss, pain in the abdomen.
But sometimes you don’t. That’s why screenings are critical.
Fasting and purging are the most challenging parts of the process, but it’s much easier than when I had my first colonoscopy.
Back then they made me drink a gallon of the worst-tasting liquid ever, and let’s just say the effect was sudden and drastic. Now, the drink tastes better, the effect is much more subtle and you are eased along your journey.
You are given a sedative that will either cause you to sleep through the colonoscopy, or to be in a very relaxed state.
Once underway, you realize why you were restricted to drinking chicken broth, clear water or consuming clear gelatin the previous day. A clear view of your colon is crucial because doctors are looking for polyps that can be removed before turning into cancer.
Doctors found polyps on my last procedure, but they were benign. A screening can identify colon cancer in its very early stages and chances of survival are greatly enhanced through early detection. Exercise and healthy eating are highly recommended preventative measures.
My colonoscopy is in March, which happens to be Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Call your doctor. The procedure is not frightening or invasive – and it could save your life.