Like many optimists, I figured I would be the one person who would not grow old and die. I mean, that’s for other people, right, not moi?
That type of bad thinking is hard to give up. After all, it is our delusions that help us endure the hardships of life. As Don Quixote said, “To see life as it should be and not as it is.”
Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t pay much attention to delusional thinking and strikes millions, especially as we age.
About one in three adults aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
“There are more than 20 million adults in this country who haven’t had any recommended screening for colorectal cancer and who may therefore get cancer and die from a preventable tragedy,” said former CDC Director Tom Frieden.
The CDC states the following: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer among men and women in the United States, after lung cancer. Screening tests can prevent cancer or detect it at an early stage, when treatment can be highly effective. Adults aged 50 years and older should get tested with one or a combination of these screening tests.
I got my first colonoscopy at age 50 and it came back perfect. Ok, I thought, that’s not going to be a problem for me. I waited 13 years for my second test — three years longer than the recommendation.
As it turns out, I had several small pre-cancerous polyps. Just like wrinkles and hair loss, the aging process takes a toll on our colons. Just because you got a good result at 50, doesn’t mean you are done with colonoscopies. A few snips, the polyps are gone and my cancer risk is dramatically reduced.
There is simply no reason to be one of the 33 percent of us who footdrag and never get tested.
If you look at the percentage of Americans who have never had a colonoscopy, the number is even higher — 50 percent. That’s because many people choose alternative, less invasive tests.
Being the curious type, I researched these alternative tests, which can even be done at home and shipped off to a lab. (Yuck!) The stats are pretty good on these lab tests, but a colonoscopy is still by far the gold standard. There’s just nothing quite as effective as a trained expert looking over every inch of your colon with a high resolution camera and snipping out anything maliciously growing.
There is a very slight risk of injury from a colonoscopy. I researched this thoroughly, but concluded it was infinitesimal compared to the superiority of a colonoscopy.
I was impressed by the progress in this procedure over the last 13 years. With my first colonoscopy, I was put under using fentanyl. This last time, the anesthesia was propofol.
Although both worked great, I popped back awake from the propofol in an instant with virtually no grogginess or memory lapse. It was quicker and easier than waking up in the morning.
It’s truly amazing how anesthesia knocks you out in a matter of seconds. My only complaint is that they should have let me enjoy the propofol buzz for at least a minute or two before completely knocking me out.
The biggest improvement was in the stuff you have to drink for the prep. It was like night and day better this time around. The first time, I would rate it a nine out of 10 for disgustingness. This time, maybe a two at most.
Yes, it’s no fun to use ingested chemicals to clean out your gut. But then losing a pound is never fun or easy. So consider the easy weight loss side benefit.
GI Associates has got the colonoscopy gig down to a fine art. I was in and out of there an hour. Wife Ginny dropped me off and just had to be reachable by cell phone to know when to come pick me up. It was really a piece of cake.
Dr. Reed Hogan, of Belhaven fame, did my colonoscopy. I love living in a place small enough that your tennis buddy can be the one who probes your backside. There were plenty of jokes back and forth both before and after, including some of Reed’s war stories, all of which are not printable.
Being competitive, I was disappointed to learn that my colon was no longer perfect, but Reed assured me that, for my age, it was a good report. His biggest dread is having to disclose bad news to his patients, especially friends.
I had zero symptoms from the snipping of the polyps. The next day, I headed out on a weekend golf trip with my buddies, played great, and never gave the colonoscopy another thought.
After the procedure, I received an email with a dozen or so high resolution images displaying all the key sections of my colon, the polyps and a couple of diverticuli. It’s kind of surreal looking at your insides on a computer screen but fascinating nonetheless.
If I had not done this, those three polyps would have grown slowly and surely every year of my life, causing serious illness, major surgery and possibly death down the road. Learn from my near mistake. Go get a colonoscopy. It’s such an easy process and 100 percent covered by insurance.
One word of insurance advice. Don’t wait until you have a problem to get a colonoscopy. If you do, it’s not preventive and not 100 percent deductible. The co-pay can be in the thousands. So the time to do it is now, when you are perfectly healthy.