Get a Colonoscopy – please!
Most of the time I use this platform to talk about metabolic health and weight. It’s what I live and breathe day in and day out. However, there is lots more to health than achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Although nutrition plays a huge role in our overall health, eating well isn’t a cure-all for everything, and obtaining a normal body weight and/or curing prediabetes doesn’t guarantee a long and healthy life.
I had a colonoscopy last month. It was fine – no cancer. I will do it again in five years. And again five years later – or sooner if that’s what my GI doctor recommends. Even though I eat really clean and avoid nitrites and other icky chemicals that we don’t know much about, I still take precautions. Because I don’t want colon cancer. And if I’m going to get colon cancer, I want it to be found in the early stages of the disease instead of the later stages.
A friend of mine lost her husband to colon cancer a couple of years ago. Adam was 45 when he was diagnosed. He suffered unspeakable horrors during his fight with the disease before he passed. I have another friend who has been battling the same horrific disease for the past year and was just transferred to hospice this week. Alisha is my age. She has a fifteen-year-old son that played hockey with my middle son for years. Her husband was one of our coaches. She and her family and their oncology team have done everything they can to fight the cancer and it’s not been enough.
The American Cancer Society has changed its recommendation for patients at average risk to begin colon cancer screening at age 45. The recommendation used to be to start at age 50, but we are seeing so many cases of colon cancer at younger ages, they have moved up the window to begin surveillance. If those recommendations had been in place a few years ago, my friends might have had an entirely different outcome. We will never know. In medicine, we have to observe and adjust our recommendations as we learn more. Right now, we know we should be screening people at age 45 – sooner for people at higher risk.
Why? Because colon cancer, when caught early, is usually pretty treatable. This is good news. So why don’t we hear more about it? Media attention has brought breast cancer prevention and awareness to the forefront of everyone’s attention. I don’t think there is a soul on earth that doesn’t associate the color pink and that little swoop thing with breast cancer. Which is great. For a month out of every year, football players wear pink socks, trucks paint their fenders pink, and every manner of processed food is repackaged with pink ribbons on it. Why don’t we do something similarly with colon cancer?
Because it has to do with the colon? Because it isn’t as sexy as breast cancer (if there is even such a thing as a sexy cancer)? Colon cancer screening isn’t fun to talk about. I get that. Doing a colonoscopy prep and actually having a colonoscopy isn’t fun either. But fighting colon cancer and dying of colon cancer is really not fun. It’s really horrible. Horrible for the person fighting the disease. Horrible for the family members standing helplessly by, witnessing the fight.
There are many wonderful people in our community that have dedicated their lives to fighting colon cancer. Stacie Moody is one that I know and respect immensely. Stacie is the local event director for the nonprofit organization, Get Your Rear in Gear – Kansas City, sponsored by the Colon Cancer Coalition. She has been involved in this organization since 2013. Stacie is so committed to raising awareness about this disease that she got a tattoo on her hand to start up random conversations about colon cancer with strangers prevention. She keeps her hair dyed blue for the same reason”. When she isn’t working, Stacie is doing everything she can to make sure everyone knows to screen for this disease – early and often. Why does she do this? Because Stacie lost her father to colon cancer when she was only 4 years old. Her father was only 40 years old when he passed away from this brutal disease.
My friend Alisha isn’t going to get to see her son finish high school. She isn’t going to be there to send him off to prom. My friend’s husband Adam passed away before getting the chance to walk his daughters down the isle. He didn’t get to see his son start high school.
I’m sure someday we will have more tools to fight this disease. Hopefully we will have better methods to screen for it. For those of you out there that have been avoiding the colonoscopy because you are nervous about the prep or the procedure itself – or you just don’t see the relevance, please take a moment to rethink your decision to hide your head in the sand. Colon cancer is real. It attacks low-risk, normal, otherwise-healthy people – seemingly at random – and sometimes at really young ages.
If you want more information about colon cancer, here are a few great links:
If you haven’t already, talk to your healthcare team about your options for getting screened. Please.
I don’t do colonoscopies, but I know people that do. If you need me, you can find me at Succeed@HeartlandWeightLoss.com and I will be happy to send you to someone that I trust!
Courtney Younglove, M.D.