Colonoscopies: a sure way to save thousands of lives every year.

November 20, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More

Every year 50,000 Americans die of colon cancer or rectal cancer (combined, they are referred to as colorectal cancer). If Americans over 50 years of age (and those in other higher risk categories) were screened for colorectal cancer as recommended, 80% of these cancer deaths could be avoided.

These numbers are staggering. To put them in perspective, about 3,000 Americans died during the 9/11 attacks, which caused this country to become apoplectic to the point where it started an entirely needless war that is currently in its seventh year. Needlessly undiagnosed colon cancer takes the lives of more than ten times as many Americans as 9/11 every year. Needlessly undiagnosed colon cancer killed enough Americans over the past twelve months to fill an entire major league baseball stadium. So where is the “war on colon cancer?

My insurance company just send me a mailer reminding me of the importance of obtaining a colonoscopy, the gold standard for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer. The statistics are so stark that it would be irrational for anyone to not proceed with this procedure, even though going through with it are less than pleasant.

Given that I’m 53 and I’ve never had such a procedure, I signed up. I started looking for information on the internet and found this highly informative video introduced by Katie Couric and featuring Dr. Jon LaPook, a gastroenterologist, who undergoes a colonoscopy on camera to demonstrate both the preparation and the procedure. After viewing this video, the entire thing looks a lot less daunting.


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Category: Health, Medicine

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Had me one of those a few years ago as part of a wide search after finding a lymph node cancer in my neck. They put me half under, so I was too drowsy to have good memory afterwards. So I'm glad to have seen this movie, thanks.

    The joy of finding nothing ;-).

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    I was recommended for a prosedure when I turtned 50.

    I had to fast, douse myself with prodgious amounts of stuff to move my bowels (I lost 4 pounds!)and went in prepared for pain and suffering.

    It was merely mildly discomforting, and no news was great news. The staff was courteous and professional.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Don't listen to the people who make colonoscopies sound daunting. It was no big deal to drink down a bunch of laxative the day before or to undergo the procedure. I mixed the laxative powder with 64 oz. of Gatorade and chilled it. It was a mild inconvenience to drink it down over 3 hours. So what if you then need to use the bathroom 15 times. Big deal. It cleans you out so that the doctor can see clearly inside of your large intestine the next day.

    My result: I received a completely clean bill of health! No cancer and no nodules. I was told that I have no need to go back for another colonoscopy for 7 years. That was delightful to hear, and it gives me peace of mind. But those who learn that they do have intestinal problems have REALLY hit the lottery, because they can then proceed to do what's necessary to save their lives.

    Here's one wrinkle I experienced. After I was told over the phone that I would be “totally knocked out,” the doctor and scrub nurse told me that they merely sedate me “so that I wouldn’t care.” I remember waking up twice during the procedure and seeing some vivid images of the inside of my large intestine on the monitor in front of me, and saying out loud “those are some impressive images.” During those moments of consciousness I don’t remember feeling anything at all—I don’t remember thinking that there was a long medical gadget snaking its way through my large intestines. This story should prove to you that a colonoscopy is not a painful procedure. At a minimum, you'll be semi-sedated and you won't care. You truly won't care at all. I felt no pain or discomfort whatever.

    After the procedure was over, a nurse told my wife that I was extremely chatty, repeatedly asking the medical team how the procedure was going. I don’t remember asking anything at all.

    If you are 50 years old or more and you haven't yet had a colonoscopy, you have no excuse to put it off any longer. Go get some peace of mind. Or go save your life.

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