Sunday 21 November 2010

Where the sun don't shine: my colonoscopy

I just had my annual physical. The doctor and I went down the list of various tests I should do and discovered I had my last colonoscopy just last year so that's off the list for the moment. However, I thought I would take a moment to remind everybody of this important procedure.

The Big "C"
Colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, will cause 57,100 deaths this year, but only 53% of Americans over the age of 50 have been screened. When caught in its early stages, colorectal cancer is approximately 90% curable. The goal of screening is to find and remove abnormal growths (polyps) on the intestinal wall that are believed to be the precursors to cancer. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy thereby eliminating the risk of them turning into cancer.

Katie Couric
I suppose that my inspiration to undergo this test in the first place was due to this woman.

Katie Couric is an American journalist currently anchor for the CBS Nightly News. Back in 1998 she was co-anchor of the Today Show and it was that year her husband died of colon cancer. Subsequently, she became an advocate for colonoscopies undergoing one herself on-air in 2000. I do remember her saying that it was more than likely her husband would have still been alive if he had underwent the test and detected his cancer in an early stage.

The procedure
A fibre optic camera on a flexible tube is passed through the anus allowing the doctor to examine the bowel and the colon. Just imagine that your colon is 1 metre to 1.8 metres (three to five feet) in length. I know it sounds odd but yes, that tube does manage to snake its way along of your colon so the doctor can get a good look. This is shown on a television monitor so I sometimes watch along with the doctor. "Hey! How long is that thing? Aren't those my tonsils?"

I would call this mildly uncomfortable but there is no pain whatsoever. More than anything else, I would just say that it's a tad odd having somebody playing around with your backside but considering the benefits, that is, possibly catching any potential cancer early, I would say that it is more than worth it.

How often
From what I found, it is recommended to start at the age of 50 and have one every 10 years but I have also heard every 5 years. I would point out that Katie Couric's husband died at the age of 42 so obviously this is something everybody should talk over with their own doctor. Personally, I am going to stick with a plan of every 5 years as I want to be prudent.

Final Word
Up to now I've had 2 prostate biopsies, 2 colonoscopies and what I estimate to be at least 20 RDEs (Rectal Digital Examinations). I'm not going to say I'm an expert but my accommodating backside is familiar with the process. I know that men out there and possibly the ladies are not going to feel too comfortable talking about any of this much less having any of these tests done but I would remind you all that prevention is better than the cure. It would be a shame to end up with something life threatening which could have been avoided with early detection. Do yourself a favour!

And yes, being a man, there's a joke in amongst all this, the type of off colour joke one says when one is in an uncomfortable situation. Years ago when I first told my brother of having started to get a RDE on a regular basis as part of my annual physical, he chuckled and asked me what I had said when the doctor first stuck his finger in my anus. I replied, "Deeper." Needless to say, I had my brother rolling on the floor.

Yes, ya gotta laugh. After all, it is all kinda funny. But seriously, it is important. I know for a fact that not all of us are taking care of ourselves. Going to the doctor's isn't number one on my list of pleasant things to do but I have certainly come to the realisation that it is an important thing to do if I want to continue to enjoy the pleasant things I do.


Wikipedia: colonoscopy

Wikipedia: Katie Couric: Personal Life

About.Com: Colorectal Cancer Screening Gets "The Katie Couric Effect"

my blog: My Prostate: something near and dear to me
Alright guys! Read this; get your RDE once a year and your PSA done. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer for men and it's for the most part preventable.


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