NEW YEARS RESOLUTION
Today, with all the stresses of Christmas over, and with you perhaps finding yourselves without a project, I have an urgent suggestion to make.
Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. I have thought this over many times, wondering why people are so hesitant to get tested. I had an opportunity to work for a while in the area of the hospital where these tests are carried out. It is called the Endoscopy Unit. Although it was not a position I applied for, it afforded me a crossover place from the ER until a spot opened up on the IV team. So I was there approximately three months.
I found that people will not go for a “scope” unless things become so intolerable that they are forced to go to a doctor for help. I think, especially in this society, people would rather not think of this unmentionable function of the human body except in jokes. Besides that, who in their right mind would voluntarily go in to have a long tube shoved up their bottom end? Seemed a fate worse than death. So, people don’t go, don’t check out that part of their anatomy until they are faced with an ultimatum by their bodies.
So, today, with the new year at hand, I would like to explain to you what a colonoscopy is like, and give you the information that could save your lives.
First…the symptoms: Have you had any rectal bleeding? Black stools are a sign of rectal bleeding. Unless you are on iron, there is no reason for you to have dark stools. Bright red makes people think of bleeding. They seldom think of tarry black as being blood. But it is, and is a sign that you should get to the phone NOW and get an appointment with your doctor.
Next: Do you have difficulty passing stools? If you have a tumor growing in your colon the stools have a hard time getting past, and you may find that days or weeks go by, without any stool. Liquid can get by, but not formed material. This is also a very grave sign and you should get to the phone NOW and get an appointment with your doctor.
Do you have pain that you can’t account for in the abdomen? Has it persisted for a month or two? Go NOW to the phone and get an appointment with your doctor.
Here is what will happen: You will be referred to a GI doctor. This is a specialist in gastric and colon health. When you see him he will order a colonoscopy. This sounds scarier than it is. In fact, it is not scary at all. Just figure you will never see those people again (a phase my friend Betsy coined when one of us felt we would be embarrassed in any situation). The night before the test, you drink a lot of the prescribed liquid, which comes in different flavors. This is to clean out the intestines, so that the doctor administering the test can visualize the colon. The next morning you go in to the area (many are not in hospitals) where the testing will be done. You will have an IV put in your arm or hand so the medicine to make you go to sleep will be administered. Then you go into the room where the test is done. Many times they don’t administer the meds until you are in the room, which gives you a chance to look around. You will see a small TV screen and a scope hanging on an IV pole. A team of about three people will be there. Then you will receive the sleepy medicine through the IV, and the next thing you know, you will be in a waiting area, with the person who brought you in. The doctor will tell you and the person with you the results of the test. Many, many times, polyps have been removed. These are small bumps that are easily snipped off while the scope is inside. Polyps can develop into cancer. Some don’t. You don’t know which, and neither does the doctor, so they are removed, and sent for testing. Although all polyps don’t develop into cancer, all colon cancer begins as a polyp. The people doing the test are people who do it everyday. Your bottom end doesn’t look much different than anyone elses so rest assured you won’t shock anyone being thin or heavy. I’ve seen them all and I can’t say I remember any of them.
Once this test is over you have given yourself and your loved ones a great gift. Colon cancer is one of the things that we have some control over in our lives. But nothing can be done without the test. Once the test is done you are either cleared, or treatment is outlined. The worst thing you can do is put if off or be intimidated or embarrassed, into not doing the test at all. Everyone over fifty should have the test whether they have symptoms or not. If you have no symptoms don’t assume you don’t have the polyps that can develop into cancer.
We like to think that if it isn’t in our families it won’t happen to us, but many people develop colon cancer who have no family history. Remember-all you have to do is call the doctor, get the stuff to drink, and get it over with that evening. The next day, have the test done. Then sit in your easy chair. You won’t have to go in again for five years, probably. A small amount of time on your part, and a huge relief once you are cleared.
So give me a gift this year and go get your colonoscopies done! Be sure and send me a note to let me know that you have done so. I will be grateful and relieved!
Just do it! Mae Julian
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