Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Let me be totally honest. Colonoscopies are one of the nastiest, most unpleasant screening tests out there. I don't mind the needle sticks, poking and measuring, but knocking me out and sticking a camera up my butt is not my idea of a good time.
I had my colonoscopy today- the first one in ten years. I turned 60 so my doctor said I was due for one. Boy did I want to put it off. The reason you can wait as long as ten years is because colon cancers, while deadly, grow very slowly, starting off as tiny polyps inside your colon. If you are considered higher risk, you have to have them every 3 to 5 years.
There's nothing quite like sitting naked but for a flimsy gown in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of you. It is a humbling experience and my brief hour in this state made me greatly appreciate the world again once I got out.
Thanks to the Afffordable Care Act, colonoscopies are free, instead of the $1000 plus they would cost if not covered. That includes a long wait in the prep room, a dose of Michael Jackson's favorite drug to knock you out, and pretty pictures of your insides once you get out and the anesthesia wears off. They had a little assembly line of folks like myself set up in rolling beds, our butts waiting for the inevitable.
I seriously debated doing the new substitute screening device, known as Cologuard. (you've probably seen the commercials with the cute blue cartoon box). All you have to do is poop into a cup and mail it off. They screen for blood and other telltale signs and then refer you for a colonoscopy if you get a positive. I have a terrible aversion to poop, I have to admit, so the hospital thing actually seemed more appealing to me. Now I discover that Cologuard misses up to 8% of colon cancers and over half of polyps. Plus they are owned by Pfizer, who, according to the book Code Blue (also reviewed on this blog), is a nasty, law-breaking company.
So after over a month of dread, I'm done. The bad news is that I had 5 polyps that were removed today, and I have to go back again in three years instead of ten. So I guess I'm grateful I caught the 5, any one of which could have turned cancerous in the future, but bad news still sucks. It's always better to get bad news sooner than later- it gives you tons more options.
To sum up:
- If you are over age 50, and especially if you have colon cancer in your family, you need to get screened, no matter what. (Email me here if you need some encouragement.) It's not that bad, plus you get to eat like a pig afterwards. The colonoscopy is the gold standard screening, but there are other screening options including Cologuard if you prefer. Talk to your doctor and figure it out.
- Colonoscopies suck, but colon cancer sucks much more.
- Your intestines are 28 feet long, taller than four basketball players, so appreciate them every time you poop.