When I turned 50, I learned that I needed to get screened for colon cancer. My physician referred me to a gastroenterologist for the procedure. During the pre-op meeting, they explained the prep that was needed and then walked me through what the procedure involved. It was very invasive and the idea of going through with the screening made me uncomfortable.
I decided to look for alternatives and found out about a screening option that wasn’t invasive and bonus - it could all be done at home. This I could do. I contacted my physician and asked for a prescription for the do-it-yourself colon cancer screen test.
The kit arrived within a week. It was a pleasant-looking blue and white box with a friendly smile on it. The screen involved collecting a stool sample which was pretty easy to do and I sent it to the lab for results. I felt pretty good, as I could check this off my list of things to do when you turn 50, or so I thought.
It turns out, the test came back positive. The recommendation for a positive result is a colonoscopy! Ugh! Despite trying to get around it, I found myself going back to the gastroenterologist to schedule the dreaded procedure. From the time I got the first test results back to the time I had the colonoscopy, I worried about what a positive result meant…did I have cancer, was the colonoscopy happening too late, what more could I have done? Had I just gone ahead with the procedure I wouldn’t have had to worry about what the prognosis could be?
In the days prior to the procedure, I decided to look into what the symptoms of colon cancer might be. Through my online search, I found out some interesting facts about colon cancer. Did you know that among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States? With proper screening, colon cancer can be detected early when treatment works best.
A few days before the procedure, you need to empty your bowel. This involved a liquid diet combined with laxatives the day before. It wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had, but I’d be kidding you if I told you it was pleasant. I went in for the procedure and they gave me an IV and conscious sedation. It didn’t take long before I was asleep. The next thing I knew, I was awake and the procedure was over. All told, it took about an hour.
I got home and napped for the good part of the afternoon. When I woke up, I felt strangely lighter. In fact, I lost a couple of pounds. Who knew stool could be that heavy!
As I’m writing this, I find myself thinking that the procedure wasn’t that bad, especially when you think that this test could mean the difference between a cancer diagnosis or a preventative measure that reduces the likelihood of cancer. Next time, I’ll choose the screening without hesitating. Ultimately, we need to invest in our health, and this test is one way to make sure your hard-working bowels are happy and healthy.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Get screened if you’re 50 or older.