My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 62 and died at age 65 (in 1984). So my doctor and I agreed that at 58, it was high time I had a colonoscopy. (About seven years ago, I underwent the less “intense” sigmoidoscopy.) Well, this morning the deed was done and a small polyp was discovered and excised. This polyp had not been there when I had the sigmoid.
This not pleasant—but certainly not onerous—preventive procedure might well have saved my life. While I don’t have the pathology results yet, the doctor doubts it is malignant. Moreover, in the unlikely event that it is, it will have been caught very early. The point is: Who knows what that polyp would have become in the years ahead if it had remained growing in my body. Or to put it more concretely, if my dad had had a colonoscopy at age 58, the polyp that was then growing in his body and became cancer would have been removed before turning malignant—and he might still be with us today. Oh, that it were so! I really miss my dad.
Many people put off taking the test because of understandable squeamishness. Don’t. The procedure is easy. I am going to describe my experience so that no one will hesitate to have a colonoscopy for fear of pain or unease over having a tube inserted “where the sun don’t shine.”
I spent all day yesterday at home on a clear liquid diet and laxatives so my colon would cleanse. This morning I was driven to the out-patient clinic by Secondhand Smokette. I was brought into a common ward and assigned a bed. I was told to put on one of those gowns with the ventilated back. An IV drip was put in my arm, my blood pressure tested, etc. Then, I was wheeled into the testing room. My doctor greeted me, and a nurse administered sedation. I was a little nervous about this because I had never received such drugs before. She told me that it would be like having four martinis. I laughed and said I had a little experience with that.
At first, I didn’t feel anything and then my head felt light and I became very relaxed. (The sedation does not make you unconscious.) I was also given a pain medication. I was asked to turn onto my left side and the procedure began. I could feel the tube, but it wasn’t much more than the sensation when having a digital exam in the doctor’s office. I could not feel that the scope had gone up my entire colon. I recall the doctor saying to the nurse that he had found the polyp. Then, it was over. I must have dozed off because the thirty minute exam seemed more like five.
Afterwards, I rested in the bed for about half and hour, spoke with a nurse about the initial results, and instructed to rest for the day. Secondhand Smokette then drove me home. I have dozed a bit, but I feel fine.
We spend billions of dollars researching various means of curing cancer and serious disease. Yet, preventive procedures like the colonoscopy are comparatively inexpensive and could save some 80% of the 50,000 lives colon cancer takes annually—perhaps including mine in about ten years.
If I can do it, you can do it. Because a polyp was found, assuming it is benign, I will have to have another colonoscopy in three years—and I will without hesitation. Here is a link with more information on this important life-saving preventative procedure.
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