Colon cancer is NO JOKE!

by midlifecrisisqueen on July 5, 2013

OK, this is your timely reminder.  Do not delay that colonoscopy you’ve been putting off for months or years, a moment longer.  Make an appointment today.  I did, and it may have saved my life.

colonoscopy smallI know.  You think it sounds disgusting and you’ve created a number of great rationalizations why you don’t really need one.

I had myself convinced too, until I got one, and the doctor found one of those dreaded pre-cancerous polyps.  Sure the whole thing sounds nasty, but compared to what?  Colon cancer?

I don’t think so!

Here’s the scoop:  Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States after lung cancer, striking 150,000 people annually, and causing over 50,000 deaths.  That’s a staggering figure considering the disease is potentially curable if diagnosed in the early stages.

Although it can occur at any age, more than 90% of patients are over age 40, at which point the risk doubles every ten years to find colon cancer.  Other than age, other high risk factors are family history and a personal history of ulcerative colitis, colon polyps or cancer of other organs, especially breast or uterus.

The most common symptoms are rectal bleeding and changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, but most polyps and early cancers produce no symptoms at all.

The procedure to check for changes in your colon wall is called a colonoscopy.  This is the only way to make certain you have no growths inside your large intestine.  If polyps are found, they are removed immediately and tested to find out if they are benign or malignant.

The worst part of a colonoscopy is the preparation, because your colon must be completely clean to view it properly.  Preparation includes going on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours before the procedure, taking laxatives the night before and drinking an electrolyte solution which causes you to clear your intestines quickly and completely within a few hours.

For the actual procedure you can elect to have full anesthesia, which I highly recommend.  Afterwards, you will see photos of your colon immediately, including any polyps they may have removed.  There is little to no discomfort during this 20-minute procedure, and it can easily save your life.

So just go ahead and make that appointment.  Call up a friend or family member.  Take turns giving each other rides home from the procedure.

Do whatever you can to support those you love through this scary experience the first time.  After that there will be no fear, because you will all know how easy it is to take care of your colon health while possibly saving your life!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Sightings July 6, 2013 at 8:08 am

Good for you for providing this important public health post. I got my first colonoscopy at age 51, and the doctor found a pre-cancerous polyp in me too. I remember, the doctor told me that it probably would have turned into cancer in five years. Which means by now I’d probably be dead. Instead, now, 3 colonoscopies later, I’m still walking around … and still annoying people.

midlifecrisisqueen July 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Exact same thing happened to me at age 51! Yesterday was my second and apparently I’m doing great!

Susan Bonifant July 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

I was not warned, and truthfully I should have known better, but it is SO CRITICAL to stay hydrated into the night after the prep. I didn’t. I was following the instructions to the letter which said nothing about drinking fluids in addition to the prep solution. At around midnight I woke up hyperventilating, my blood pressure fell and I collapsed. At 12:48 a.m. the EMTs were in my bedroom ready to cart me off to the hospital with severe dehydration. Did I go? Hell no, not after getting that far. I just pounded water and things leveled off quickly. But this potentially VERY serious situation is easy to prevent.

If you’ve been putting this off as I did, you’re depriving yourself of the musical words you’re most likely to hear: “You’re fine, nothing to worry about”.

midlifecrisisqueen July 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

WOW Susan! That sounds terrible! Thanks for warning us! – LLC

J. Moen July 9, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I had the same experience. It was really frightening! I didn’t have the colonoscopy, not for a couple of weeks after that. I made it through the prep drinking a lot 2-3 days before the prep and procedure. Putting this procedure off (due to other medical problems) was a horrible mistake for me. I was 56 and was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer! I had surgery right away and I am a little over half way through chemo. I can tell you that a colonoscopy is nothing compared to the discomfort of colon cancer!!!Get your colonoscopy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (at 50 years old) I do have a family history (grandmother) of colon cancer, but was not aware of it until my mother heard the diagnosis and said “oh grandma had that”. Know your history if you can!!!

midlifecrisisqueen July 10, 2013 at 6:48 am

OH NO!!! I am so sorry to hear about your troubles! That is why I keep bringing up such an IMPORTANT SUBJECT for those in their early 50s.
My husband also had family history, but it was impossible to ignore, because his Mom died of it at age 53. He had his first colonoscopy at age 45, and did find polyps.
I just do not see why everyone does not get their first screening. It is fully paid for by most insurances if it is a seen as a screening procedure…

Jo July 10, 2013 at 8:33 am

My mother’s colon cancer wasn’t caught early enough. They thought they got it all in surgery and chemo, but it mestastized to her liver, and after trying so hard for three years, with different diagnoses, doctors, surgeries, we lost her last year. At age 66, when she hadn’t had an ill day or hospital stay before in her life. Please, think of your family. Get a colonoscopy. This is the easiest of all cancers to catch before symptoms happen. Thank you for sharing this vital information. I had my first colonoscopy two years ago and actually I really liked the light feeling after the prep – kind of like a cleanse! ;) Now I don’t need another one for five years – I am all clear. I hope your readers get their colonoscopies done too, and hear those fantastic words.

midlifecrisisqueen July 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

Good for you Jo! So sorry to hear about your Mom. My husband Mike lost his Mom to colon cancer, at age 53. So sad and such a waste….

Caryn/The Mid Life Guru July 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I heard all the horror stories of colonoscopies and have to admit I was REALLY nervous when I turned 50 and was approaching my appointment. I was especially worried because I don’t “drink” well. Knowing I had to down all those ounces of a thick, icky taking fluid was causing a lot of anxiety. I called the hospital and told them about my non-drinking issues and they were helpful in giving me directions for another way to prepare for the procedure without drinking all that stuff. It worked. I relaxed. The procedure was a piece of cake compared to my pre-op worries. And now I can add to it peace of mind knowing conclusively that my colon is clean. Hallelujah.

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