Colon cancer kills 50,000 Americans every year. That’s more people than a full stadium at Comerica Park. But here’s the good news: Colon cancer is more than 90% preventable if detected early. Read that sentence again. Colon cancer is more than 90% preventable if detected early. Think of the lives we could save if we just got more people to talk about colons, rectums and bowels and go get checked out.
I take this subject very seriously. My sweet friend Ana was in her early 20’s when she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. She had a stomachache she kept ignoring until she couldn’t ignore it any more. By then it was too late. Look at her beautiful smile. I gave the eulogy at her funeral.
Don’t ignore the pain. Don’t ignore blood in your stool. Don’t ignore changes in bowel habits or unexplained fatigue and loss of appetite. It’s so important to detect colon cancer early before there are any symptoms. By age 50, everybody should be screened for colon cancer. If there’s a family history or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, you’ll want to be checked before 50. And a colonoscopy is one the best tools for finding cancer or at least finding polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer.
I know, I know… the idea of a long flexible tube with a camera going in to your derriere doesn’t sound very appealing. But new advances have made the procedure faster and easier to endure. And it saves lives. Most people complain that the prep is worse than the procedure. The prep is all about cleaning out your instestines so the doc has a clear view. But even the prep has gotten easier in recent years. And the actual procedure is truly painless.
Overall, colonoscopy is a very safe test, but as with any medical procedure, complications are possible. Studies have estimated the overall risk of complications for routine colonoscopy to be extremely low, at approximately 0.35 percent. In the vast majority of patients, a colonoscopy is a lifesaver that’s worth the risk.
The colonoscopy isn’t your only screening option. You could give a stool sample, or have a sigmoidoscopy or undergo a virtual colonoscopy. But if those tests find anything worrisome, you’ll have to undergo a colonoscopy anyway.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of baring your backside, think about this: I had my colonoscopy on television! That’s right. Mine was primetime. My goal was to get more people to see that it’s not painful or uncomfortable or even that awkward. At least yours will be private.
Thanks for reading this. Now go talk to someone you love about their colon.