Monday, March 05, 2012

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is the National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the USA, with over 50,000 deaths annually. And while some people may present with symptoms of changes in bowel habits (constipation with bouts of diarrhea) or blood in stools, most are asymptomatic until advanced stages. As such, it is recommended that screening colonoscopies be started at the age of 50, younger if there are other risk factors like family history or inflammatory bowel disease.
And to generate more awareness, yours truly decided to get his arse scoped today. Yup, no kidding. Well, also because of a family history of colon cancer. I started my screens at the age of 25, and this would be my third.
Many of my patients are fearful of the procedure. Worried about the pain/discomfort. Well, personally, there's nothing to it. Thanks to a generous dose of Midazolam and Meperidine, my friendly gastroenterologist had me out like a light. Or at least I don't remember him shoving that damn endoscope up my butt. Last thing I remembered prior to the procedure was getting worried that I wasn't yet sedatic/amnesic and he was already lubing up the endoscope; I actually said to him "Erm, I don't think your nurse has administered the Versed yet".
"We'll fix that". True to his word.
The worse parts are probably the 'ancillary' stuff. For one, I was suffering from a clear liquid diet for the last 36 hours, and having to take the ghastly 4-liter tank of laxatives (while my dear sympathetic wife and daughter happily chowed down hot dogs, chicken fingers and other snacks all weekly). I was starving all weekend! And after you take the stuff, just make sure you have a nice collection of magazines to keep you occupied when you're on the toilet. You're gonna need it, trust me.
So there, it's not that bad an experience. Though with the Midazolam, there was much I don't remember. Like how I kept asking the doctors and nurses the same questions every 2 minutes. Also, my wife tells me there was a bombshell of a nurse who looked after me in recovery but I don't remember anything about it. And thankfully my colon was clear, aside from the copious amounts of flatus which I'm blaming squarely on the gastroenterologist's insufflation.
So, if you're over 50 years of age, or have a strong family history of colorectal cancer, do yourself a favor and schedule a colonoscopy. It could save your life. It did my dad's.