I saw this billboard everywhere last month and found out that in addition to National Nutrition Month, March was also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer usually starts with a polyp (a small growth) in the rectum or the colon. It is preventable, treatable, and beatable if detected early enough by having the polyps removed. A startling fact about colon cancer- 50% of colon cancer deaths in the US could be prevented if everyone 50 years and older would get screened. Since that just doesn’t happen, it is the 3rd most common cancer.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened. There are different types of screening tests, but the most common is getting a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at the age of 50. Sounds easy enough, but the process of getting screened is usually what keeps people from doing it. My dad is 57 and hasn’t had a colonoscopy. I love him so much and want him to be healthy so he can be a super awesome grandpa to my kids someday, so I started nagging, I mean, lovingly reminding him to get one done. He knows he needs to do it, he’s just not too thrilled about it (I have yet to meet someone who is).
The first step of getting a colonoscopy is prepping for it. In order to find polyps on the colon walls, it has to be cleared out by fasting and strong laxatives. Fasting occurs the day before the procedure with the exception of clear liquids up to a few hours before. An electrolyte-based solution (polyethelene glycol, or PEG) is consumed in addition to a laxative that will cause high volumes of diarrhea. With this occurrence, it’s advised to clear your schedule the day before and of the colonoscopy…you won’t want to stray far from the bathroom once the prep starts to work. When it comes time for the actual procedure, IV anesthesia is administered and you’ll wake up after it’s done like you simply took a nap. A long, thin tube with a camera and light lens is inserted through the rectum and guided through the colon. Most people will have no pain during the procedure. If you’d like to see the Mayo Clinic’s 20-second clip that explains a colonoscopy, follow the link.
On one hand, no one wants a tube shoved up their butt. On the other hand, I doubt anyone wants colon cancer. I’d rather go through an awkward procedure than let any potential polyps go unnoticed and lead to cancer. I encourage you to nag, I mean, lovingly recommend that any loved ones in your life over the age of 50 get screened.
It could save their life.
**Update! My dad got the procedure done in August 2012 and is in the clear! He’s got a little diverticulitis which means he needs to get more fiber in his diet.