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Your humble reporter underwent a colonoscopy procedure at a downtown healthcare facility recently. Realizing that I missed National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by about four months, I have nevertheless decided to share my experience with our dear readers (whose numbers may wane after this article).
First of all, let’s get the funny stuff out of the way. Colonoscopies are no joke, but just about any medical procedure occurring below the belt and above the knees is, perforce, humorous (especially when it is not being done to you). A doctor friend swears that the following are actual comments made by patients while receiving their colonoscopies:
"Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!
"Find Amelia Earhart yet?"
"Can you hear me NOW?"
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
"You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married."
"Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"
"You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out..."
"Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"
"If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!
"Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."
"Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?"
But there is also a serious side to having a doctor shove a ten-foot-long fiber-optic television tube up your bum. Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon—is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.
And the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with advancing age. More than 90% of cases occur in people aged 50 or older. It is estimated that as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely. In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.
You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if:
You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; or
You have inflammatory bowel disease.
If you are aged 50 or older, or think you may be at increased risk for colorectal cancer, you should speak with your doctor about getting screened.
My recent procedure was my third colonoscopy, under the able direction of Dr. Ron Richardson; my doctor and our personal friend (I wouldn’t let just anybody sneak up on me from behind like that!). He and his team administer a marvelous little drug which causes drowsiness, relieves anxiety, and erases any memory of the procedure. The nurses jokingly refer to it as “Milk of Amnesia.” If this drug could be given to married women on a regular basis, it would doubtless reduce the divorce rate by half.
So today, since I really can’t remember much of the procedure, I will return to telling politically incorrect jokes about colonoscopies and all things rectal. Feel free to join in the humor. When the nurse asks you if you are allergic to latex, tell her: “I don’t know, but every time the doctor puts them rubber gloves on, it makes my ---- hurt.” And, if you are over 50, give your doctor a call and schedule your own little television program. You’ll have some great jokes to tell your friends, and it’s really nothing to be afraid of. Cancer, on the other hand, is really something to be afraid of.
Learn more: Fight Colorectal Cancer
Learn more: Colon Cancer Alliance
Learn more: MedicineNet.com
Laugh a little: Dave Barry’s colonoscopy
Laugh a little: Lou Rawls Colonoscopy Exam Video