March is colon cancer awareness month. If you are one of those people putting off
your screening colonoscopy or if your time has come for your 50 and over rite of
passage, I have something that you should read.
Colonoscopy: What You Need to Know
It's amazing how just one word can strike fear into
the hearts of most Baby Boomers: colonoscopy. We shudder at the thought of a
doctor sticking a long tube up our rear ends. But before you run for the hills,
consider these five important reasons you need to call and make an appointment:
1. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women
in the U.S.
2. Nine out of ten people with colon cancer are 50 years or older.
3. Colonoscopy is the "gold standard" procedure for colon cancer screening
4. Most cancers start out as small polyps. Colonoscopies are one of the only
ways a doctor can find the polyps and remove them before they become cancerous
5. Colonoscopies have become a lot more civilized.
What's a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopies are performed using a five-foot long tube with a mini-flashlight
and camera on the end. The doctor will take the tube and insert it into your
rectum, and then up and around to view your entire colon. Don't worry, you'll be
given a sedative so you'll sleep through the procedure (you won't feel a thing)
and wake up feeling fine. (Seriously, you shouldn't have any pain in the
"region" even after the procedure.) The colonoscopy can take anywhere from 15 to
Have the test at age 50, or sooner, depending on your family's health history.
If an immediate relative had colon cancer, take your test ten years prior to
when that family member got their cancer. (For example, If your dad had it at
50, you would want your colonoscopy at 40.) And as long as your results are
clear, you won't need to repeat the test for ten years
The One Tip You Need
You need a squeaky clean colon if the doctors are going to spot the polyps. In
the past, patients had to drink a gallon of Fleets phospho-soda (or something
called Golytely) to get "cleaned out". The stuff tastes bad and the sheer
quantity you have to drink is pretty disgusting. Now the civilized part: You can
now take some Visicol, a pill-actually 40 pills over four hours. (Believe us,
this is a better option than the jug of the other stuff that some people say
tastes like "fish juice".) You can also take Miralax, a powder that dissolves in
liquid, and has very little taste. If your doctor doesn't prescribe either of
these options, be assertive about asking for them.
To Ensure a Successful Colonoscopy:
1. Follow your doctor's pre-procedure instructions.
2. Use wet wipes, instead of toilet paper, during the "colon
cleaning" or you can get very sore.
3. Make sure you have someone to drop you off and pick you up.
4. Have a follow-up appointment to discuss the results-you may not want to
rely on your memory after the procedure.
Don't be afraid. Get your colonoscopy! Think of it as just another rite of
passage. It can save your life.