By Debra J. Groom
I was reading through some things on my desk and came across a notice that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
I thought I would toss in my few cents on this subject in hopes of getting a bunch of Oswego County residents off their keisters to get their colons checked out.
The best screening available for colon cancer is the colonoscopy. Yeah, I know, the dreaded colonoscopy. There may be a few of you reading this saying to yourself “Hey, no one is going to put a scope up, well, you know where.”
But listen. It really isn’t that bad. And if it can save you from dying from colon cancer, I’d say, go for it.
I have had five colonoscopies. Colon cancer and colon problems run in my family. Both of my grandfathers had colon cancer. One died from it (back in 1944, before there were the tests and treatments we have today). The other was cured, but he lived with a colostomy for the rest of his life.
My mother had problems with benign colon polyps and my sister has had colon difficulties too. So you can bet your bottom I don’t miss a colonoscopy.
The Centers for Disease Control says colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. It also is the second-leading cause of death from cancer for men and women combined in the United States.
In 2010 (the most recent year numbers are available), 131,607 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 67,700 men and 63,907 women.
A total of 52,045 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer, including 27,073 men and 24,972 women.
But here is the most important statement from CDC:
“Screening can find precancerous polyps — abnormal growths in the colon or rectum — so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.”
Are you convinced yet?
Well, while the colonoscopy sounds yucky, it really isn’t that bad.
You spend the day before on a liquid diet, which leads to ravenous hunger. But hey, it’s only one day.
You drink some bad-tasting stuff the night before the procedure that makes you spend much of the next few hours on the porcelain throne. But you have to clean out that colon so the doctor can get some clean, pretty pictures.
That part — called the prep — is actually the worst part. And think about it, isn’t it worth it to go through a few hours of discomfort to live to a ripe old age with your colon in tact?
The test itself, I have found, is a breeze. I have always been totally knocked out by the anesthesia — I’ve never felt a thing. After, you lay in the recovery room for a bit, talk to your doctor to see what they found and then off you go. Most people can eat a regular meal not too long after the test is over.
Even with my extensive family history, I have this done only once every five years.
Of course, people should always mention any symptoms they have to their doctors immediately. The CDC lists the symptoms as blood in or on your stool (bowel movement, stomach pain, aches, cramps that don’t go away and losing weight when you don’t know why.
So if you have any symptoms or you’re over 50 and just want to be checked out, celebrate this month by see a gastroenterologist and having a colonoscopy.
I think that’s a small price to pay for life.