Two things happen when you turn 50. First, you start getting invitations to join the AARP in the mail every couple of weeks (until they give up). Second, your doctor tells you it’s time for your colonoscopy screening. That’s the one that puts a lump in your throat. At 51, I finally bit the bullet and got my colonoscopy screen last week- and it may have saved my life.
Here’s what to expect. If you have anxiety, rest assured that it’s not too bad and definitely worth it. You’ve probably heard that the preparation part is the worst, and that’s true. But, it’s not all that bad especially now that they have a formula that you can’t taste. You do need to drink lots of Gatorade or something like that (with the added laxative). The last couple of glasses are the hardest to swallow because you’re saturated but it’s not that bad. The purging part takes a total of 6 hours or so, but you can still get other things done around the house. Since you’re drinking alot, heating it up to body temperature and then expelling it- you do get cold, so dress warm.
It’s best to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning so you don’t go hungry all day on the day of your screening. They’ll take your vital signs and give you an IV for the medication you’ll get during the procedure when you arrive. When they roll you back to the room, they’ll have a short conversation with you and then start the “twilight” medication, which kind of half-way knocks you out. You’re awake for the procedure, but you can’t really tell what’s going on. The actual procedure itself usually takes just a short time; mine lasted 11 minutes. When you come out, they’ll tell you the results and then you can go home (someone has to drive you).
I turned out to have something called a polyp (1 cm), which is a benign growth. If you have one, they’ll remove it during the procedure with this lasso tool. Not every polyp turns into cancer, but every colon cancer starts as a polyp. And since colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death, it’s really important to find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer.
Anyway, this is an important screening and it’s not nearly as bad as you might think… so if you’re over 50 and you haven’t done it yet, get it over with. Don’t fret. It’s not that bad and it’s definitely worth it.