My colonoscopy was again a big hassle, but well worth it

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

What’s a better way to close out 2017 than with a subject matter that makes many men my age feel very uneasy, perhaps even embarrassed?

I have written about it a couple of times before. I described a medical procedure I underwent that saved me from cancer treatments down the road and most likely saved my life.

Several of you mentioned the column when we ran into each other, and some of you may have made a decision to undergo this procedure after reading about it, even though it is a pain in the rear, so to speak
I am talking about the dreaded and often maligned colonoscopy.

Three years ago I underwent this procedure and found out that there were five polyps lurking in my colon, three of them ready to turn cancerous. They were all snipped out, but because of the high number of polyps found, the doctor performing the procedure suggested that I return in three years and undergo it again.

And I did.

The preparation was as uncomfortable as I remembered it. It was no fun fasting all day and then undergoing a treatment that cleaned out the colon. There could be a lot of jokes made about this, but the bottom line is that this procedure has saved many lives.

If the polyps are allowed to grow into cancer, you will most likely have to undergo surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Three of the polyps removed from my colon three years ago would have done just that – grow cancerous. Perhaps in my mid- to late-60s, I would have been fighting for my life. What do you think my chances would have been with three of these things attacking me at the same time?

For colon and rectal cancer, around 39 percent are diagnosed at the local stage, before the cancer has spread outside the local area. The five-year survival for these patients with localized colon and rectum cancer is 90 percent.

When the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes near the site of origin, the five-year survival rate is about 71 percent. When the cancer has metastasized to distant sites in the body (stage IV cancer), the five-year survival rate lowers to about 13.5 percent.

The survival rate for those who undergo a colonoscopy and have the benign polyps removed is 100 percent. I like this figure better than the others.

I did my best to prepare for the procedure. That was the hard part. The rest was up to the doctor and his team. I was asleep. A half hour later it was all over, except for the results. When I woke up, the doctor came to the recovery room, all smiles.

“You are clean. We didn’t find anything. It all looks good,” he said. “You’re done for five years.”
It was music to my ears.

I rode home feeling pretty good about it all. The rest of the day was easy. I slept for the most part, catching up on sleep I lost the night before. That didn’t matter anymore. I kept replaying the doctor’s words in my mind. They sounded so good.

Dear reader, if you are 50 or over, talk to your doctor about this procedure because it can save you a lot of anguish later. It is well worth the hassle. Don’t let the negative connotations keep you from doing it.

Have a happy New Year and a very healthy 2018.

Did you know about colorectal cancer?
• Early cases can begin as noncancerous polyps. These often have no symptoms but can be detected by screening. For this reason, doctors recommend screenings for those at high risk or over the age of 50.
• Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
• Colon cancer develops from growths within the wall of the intestine, such as polyps or tumors.
• You’re given medicine to make you sleep through a colonoscopy, so you don’t feel anything. Medicine usually isn’t used for a sigmoidoscopy. During both of these tests, air is pumped into the cleaned-out colon to keep it open so that doctors can get the best pictures.
• The majority of colorectal cancers occur in people older than 50.