Early this afternoon I had my camera-up-the-windward-passage exam. After having given up seedy foods for a week (including, alas, popcorn) and having spent a day and a half doing the not-fun (but not unbearable) prep, I am good for another five years.
I also have 11 little thumbnail photos of my colon’s various twists and turns. In color. Thanks, doc.
The release paperwork also instructed that for the next 12 hours I should not “perform any activity that requires you to be mentally alert with normal reflexes.” I figured that clears me for blogging.
Luckily for you I’m not inclined to post those colon candids. Can’t wait to show to my older nephew, though. When he asked why I couldn’t sample his mom’s fresh blueberry jam I told him about the test.
“Send us a picture,” he suggested.
(Apparently wiseguy-ism runs in the family.)
Most people get colonoscopies every 10 years, but due to a family history I get them every half-decade. When the final dose of MoviPrep looked a little nauseating this morning, I reminded myself that colon cancer treatment would be a lot less pleasant than sucking down a couple of liters of the cloying, slightly salty liquid.
So that’s the first reason: Because getting a colonoscopy might save your life. Colorectal cancers are the second leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women in the United States. But the good news, according to the American Cancer Society, is that the number of deaths has been dropping for more than 20 years, which is due at least in part to screenings.
Some people are afraid of the test, and I can’t blame them. The notion of a camera snaking up your backside is a little daunting. (These days there’s a corollary fear: that the footage might wind up on YouTube.)
A relatively simple procedure
As someone who gets these every five years (and at one point had two procedures in a three-year span due to worrisome-at-the-time findings), let me assure you: The test is generally neither painful nor debilitating.
You might need to take a day off for the prep, unless you work at home or you sit really close to the office bathrooms. (There’s a reason they call it MoviPrep. Another formulary, GoLYTELY, is not an example of truth in advertising.)
My dad has a practical suggestion for a successful prep: “Just don’t wear any pants that day.”
You’ll definitely need to take at least part of the day off when you have the procedure. Not that it takes a long time; mine lasted less than an hour, from changing into the gown to gratefully sipping the cup of water that DF brought into the recovery room. But the “conscious sedation” is likely to be a medication called Versed, which leaves you a bit loopy for, oh, 12 hours or so.
(Conscious sedation – I love that oxymoron.)
And that’s the second reason: the long, lovely, Versed-enhanced nap afterwards. Sleep comes like a caress. I didn’t lie down immediately – I wanted something to eat first – but then I slept for three hours and woke up only because DF came in to check on me.
Take charge of your health
Your mileage may vary. A relative had a difficult colonoscopy due to an unusual bend in her colon. (Also due to the fact that she’s a vegetarian and one of the mainstays of the prep diet is Jell-o. Vegan gelatin, she reports, is pretty ghastly.)
The doc tried using a child-sized scope and even then couldn’t manage to complete the test. Thus the relative had to come back again (which meant doing the prep again), and the second attempt wasn’t comfortable.
Again: Cancer treatment isn’t comfortable, either, and it takes a lot longer than a day and a half of inconvenient/slightly uncomfortable prep.
In my relative’s case the examination revealed the type of polyp that can turn into a particularly nasty form of colon cancer. She felt fortunate to be able to get the test, even if it meant doing the prep twice. At least the second time she saved a little money by skipping the vegan gelatin purchase.
So if you’re older than 50, talk to your healthcare provider about getting this test. If you’re younger than 50 but there’s a family history, please talk to your healthcare provider. What you don’t know can hurt you, and it’s up to you whether the footage winds up on YouTube. Just don’t decide while the Versed is still in your system.
More light reading: