Public Service Announcement Pt. 2

A couple of months ago, I wrote that I was going to have a colonoscopy. Yesterday, I did just that.

I am seven years younger than the standard recommended age (50) for a first colonoscopy. As a matter of fact, I was asked several times at the hospital why I was having one. I stated the reasons why in this post, but to recap, my dad had polyps (not sure whether they were precancerous or not) removed at the age of 50.  This meant that my brother and I were supposed to have the procedure at 40, 10 years earlier than he was when his polyps were discovered. I was three years late. To be honest, I didn’t realize that I needed to have a colonoscopy early, my internist informed me of this fact during my first appointment with her.

I had three polyps removed during my colonoscopy. You might be wondering why I am sharing something so personal, and in such a public way. One reason: my father died of cancer at the age of 53 and while the type of cancer he had was not treatable, colon cancer, if caught early, is. I don’t know whether the polyps I had were precancerous, I will find out in about three weeks. But if they were, and if I did not get the colonoscopy until the recommended age of 50, I might have been in trouble.

Here is the bottom (pardon the pun) line on colon cancer:

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, accounting for 14 percent of cancer deaths. Colorectal cancer is preventable if precancerous polyps (ie, adenomas) are detected and removed before they become malignant (cancerous). Over time, small polyps can change their structure and become cancerous. Polyps are usually removed when they are found on colonoscopy, which eliminates the chance for that polyp to become cancerous. Source.

The procedure itself was a breeze. The prep? Not so much. I like to eat a high fiber diet and had to change my eating habits for a full seven days before the colonoscopy. This meant no Kashi cereal, vegetables, fruits or grains. I don’t eat white bread but it became a staple the week before my colonoscopy. In the grand scheme of things, this was a pain, but not horrible.

I had to give up all solid food the day before the procedure. I ate four popsicles (but nothing red or purple–the best flavors of course) and drank a can of chicken broth. Again, a pain, but nothing to cry about. The part that was really bad (yep, nothing but the truth here) was drinking the gallon of liquid laxative. I chewed sugar-free gum in between cups and that helped. Also helpful, I used a straw to drink the prep, something that was recommended to me. I had to really psych myself up to finish the entire gallon. I did it though, the fear of having to go through it all again, if not done properly the first time, motivated me.

I was given a sedative almost as soon as I entered the room where the colonoscopy was done. I have no real memory of anything that happened after that until I was in the recovery room. Pretty sure, I am okay. The doctor seemed to think so. He told me to come back in five years. And I will. Drinking the prep stunk, but I know having colon cancer would stink more.

Here’s some information on who should be screened, and when. I wish there had been a screening process for the cancer my dad died from. There isn’t. The fact that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. but is practically preventable tells me that people are dying from colon cancer and they shouldn’t be. If you need a colonoscopy, get a colonoscopy. It really isn’t a big deal. If you have kids and are putting this procedure off, you need to suck it up, because I can tell you firsthand, losing a parent to cancer is horrible.

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11 responses

  1. You are doing such a wonderful service to be so open and post this. I haven’t had one yet as I’m 48 and don’t have a family history. I didn’t realize that about the diet the week before. As a vegetarian, that will be hard!

    • Thanks for the nice feedback Debbie–I appreciate it.

      Doctor recommendations for modifying diet prior to procedure vary. Someone I know who had a colonoscopy two weeks before mine (with different physician) only had to modify her diet for four days. You can eat white rice, potatoes (without skin) and tomato paste/sauce. Pasta is fine, as was plain cheese pizza and creamy peanut butter. Main thing is to avoid high fiber foods (including seeds and nuts) because fiber can linger in intestines. It was a pain to alter diet for seven full days, but as I said in post, pales in comparison to what I would experience if I had colon cancer.

  2. Thanks for this recap Jenn! I have to get one this year too and I’m a big wiggy about it. I’m only 38 but my sis was diagnosed with colon cancer at 48 and died two years later. I will calling you for support when my day for the procedure comes. xo

    • Mary, I am really sorry about your sister. I am so glad you are doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. I will be happy to offer you a ton of support. I can also give you the name of a really good (so good, you have to make appointment months in advance) gastroenterologist. xxoo

  3. Well done. My mother had breast cancer so I’m supposed to have mammograms starting this year. Have appt to talk about it w/OBGYN next month. It’s always hard because some Drs disagree that earlier is better. At least w/a mammogram because they just might not be able to see anything, I guess.

    I do hear that the pre colonoscopy diet is worse than the actual procedure.

    • Digital mammography, which is what they have at the Polster Center (best place in the world–you get a comp. neck massage after you are done!) in La Jolla, is supposed to be better for younger women. I think the issue is that younger women can have false positives because tissue is dense. Doctors want to avoid doing unnecessary biopsies. Digital screening helps with that. Good for you for not burying your head in the sand! Breast cancer is also very treatable (thank goodness) if caught in the early stages.

  4. I’ve been wondering how the C went.
    Glad to hear it didn’t suck! Also veryyyy happy to hear the polyps were removed and all should be just fine.

    Agreed on Polster. I’ve been going there since I was 30 (mom died at age 56 from breast cancer) and they are very good.

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