Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Get a Colonoscopy?

Photo by Hey Paul Studios.
(Note: I am not authorized to give medical advice or prescribe treatment. This post is only for raising awareness of the issue and sharing my personal experience.  If you have a concern about your health, see your general physician or another licensed medical professional.)

Crap.  I have to get a colonoscopy. 

Actually, I'm 2.5 years behind schedule.  The guidelines are to have one at age 50, one at 60, and one at 70.  After age 75, the procedure can be a bit harsh on the aging intestinal system and is generally not recommended. 

A study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine argues that those without prior screening by age 75 receive little benefit from the test.   

But I am far younger than 75.  I' guessing that the most likely outcome will be a discovery of diverticulosis.


Statistics

Here are some key statistics about colorectal cancer: 

People over their entire lifetime have a 5% chance (or 1:20) risk of acquiring colorectal cancer

It's the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both genders when combined. 

Age isn't the only risk factor. People with certain intestinal problems and people with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with colorectal cancer are at greater risk.  

It's Not the Screening, It's the Prep

I have heard that the screening itself isn't that bad. It's the preparation that is difficult. Prior to screening, patients have to empty their bowels as much as possible. This is a little traumatizing for the body. 

At noon the day before the screening, I have to take 2 tablet laxatives (bisacodyl). Then over a two-hour time period, I have to drink 64 oz of Gatorade mixed with 238 grams of polyethylene glycol

That day prior to my screening, I can only consume clear fluids with no red or purple dyes: i.e., broth, tea, gelatin, sports drinks, apple juice. Then at 8 pm the day prior, I have to take 2 more tablet laxatives. I am scheduled for a 9 am screening the next day, and someone has to drive me, stay there with me, and drive me home. 

Soft-Food Diet

I am hoping that this process will be less dramatic if I eat easily digested foods in the days prior. I found various suggested meal plans for those preparing for a colonoscopy. 

Colon Cancer Alliance Sample 6 Day Meal Plan

Aukland, New Zeland Dept. of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 3 Day Prep

Harvard Medical Teaching Hospital Low-Residue Diet

Basically, they are soft, bland, low-fiber foods such as white bread, overcooked vegetables and soft meats. 

I don't have to do this for a few more days, so I have some time to prepare myself physically and mentally. For example, I bought myself some fancy clear juices.  I will try to take notes about the experience in case I decide to write a bit more about the screening. 

But mainly, this retired English teacher just hoping that All's Well that Ends Well and that my results show that this was all Much A-Poo about Nothing. 

Related:

Why Get a Colonoscopy? 

My 1st Colonoscopy Screening

3 comments:

  1. This will help loosen you up (no pun intended): http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/02/11/427603/dave-barry-a-journey-into-my-colon.html
    AFter all my fretting, it was really not that bad. Good luck.

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  2. what you've heard is right. The procedure is painless. The prep is the uncomfortable part. All things considered, not as bad as a whole lot of other preps/procedures. Heartened to hear that 75 may be the end of the line for havingto have a colonoscopy. something to look forward to

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  3. The hardest part is the prep. You'll be surprised at how easy the rest of it is.

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