Thursday, January 6, 2011

Find Cancer Early

Consider that an order. This is a Public Service Announcement:

"Colorectal cancer screening helps people stay well and save lives. Regular colorectal cancer testing is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer. Removing polyps prevents colorectal cancer from ever starting. And cancers found in an early stage are more easily treated. Nine out of 10 people whose colon cancer is discovered early will be alive 5 years later. And many will live a normal life span. But too often people don't get these tests. Then the cancer can grow and spread without being noticed, like a silent invader. In many cases, by the time people have any symptoms the cancer is very advanced and very hard to treat."
-- American Cancer Society

After the jump, what the PSA above doesn't tell you about colonoscopy.

Fasting the day before a colonoscopy makes you aware of things you might not have noticed before. Like how telecasts of college football bowl games are largely sponsored by commercials featuring eating and drinking. Even the names of the games will taunt you -- Sugar Bowl, for instance.

On the other hand, scheduling a colonoscopy during football bowl season means you can check off a New Year's resolution early in the year, and it's a big one. That's a plus.

People always say that you shouldn't trust surgeons to operate on the correct part of the body. For example, if you're having knee surgery, you should take a black marker and write "NOT THIS KNEE" on your good leg. In the case of a colonoscopy, all I can think of to do is write on your lower abdomen, "DON'T TOUCH MY JUNK." Maybe we could combine airport security screening with colorectal screening and kill two birds with one stone.

As you're lying in the ward waiting to be wheeled into the procedure room, you'll hear various extraneous sounds. For example, there might be a nurse's station with a PC that chimes the Windows startup sound every time a nurse sits down and logs in. It focuses the mind to think that your life may be in the hands of Microsoft®. It gives a whole new meaning to "Blue Screen of Death."

An awesome thing about a colonoscopy is that you just might end up with a tattoo. That's right, if a large polyp is removed and the doctor wants to mark the spot in case further treatment is needed, he just might leave a tattoo at the spot. Not very artistically, either. Just a splotch of purple. The next time you are asked if you have any tattoos, you will have to admit, yes you do, and hope you're not asked to show it. Also hope a surgeon won't have to go back in to look for it.

Besides potentially saving your life, getting regular colonoscopies after age 50, or earlier if your personal risk for developing colon cancer warrants it, another potential benefit is that you just might end up featured on The Colon Club calendar. Consider it a consolation prize if the screening does find something.

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