Don’t Let Washington State’s 3rd Deadliest Cancer Kill You
I don't recall anyone saying getting older was easy. If they did, I missed it. At a recent visit with my primary doctor, he told me I was overdue for a colon cancer screening. I cringed thinking about the horror stories I've heard about the process, ranging from being handcuffed to the commode to uncontrolled "movements" that could occur at anytime.
The horror stories do tend to be exaggerated, but the process in preparing for a colon cancer screening, or colonoscopy, isn't. It is challenging and uncomfortable, and a number of other things I'll detail, but the biggest thing it is is necessary...I'll detail that as well.
The most recent data (2018) collected by the Washington State Department of Health shows Colorectal Cancer the third deadliest cancer in Washington State among all types of Cancer.
That's similar to the most recent data from the American Cancer Society that estimates over 52,500 deaths in 2022 from colorectal cancer, placing it as the third leading killer nationwide among cancers.
With that knowledge, I didn't fight my primary doctor's recommendation. I scheduled an appointment to see a Gastroenterologist and then set a date for the colonoscopy. I was prescribed 128 ounces of a solution to drink called "GoLYTELY" which is a polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution that evacuates your bowels over a specific time frame.
My appointment was at 8am on a Monday so I needed to begin drinking the solution at 10pm Sunday evening. Did I mention I wasn't able to eat anything at all on Sunday? Only broth, jello, and any liquid not colored red, orange, or purple as it could appear as blood in the bowel...also no dairy.
Drinking the solution happened over a pair of two hour time frames. The first 64 ounces of the solution had to go down between 10pm and midnight, drinking roughly 8 ounces every 10 minutes. Then a three hour downtime before beginning again at 3am and finishing the rest of the gallon, yes gallon, before 5am...again 8ounces every ten minutes. Then no liquids after 5am at all...including water.
To say that my toilet took a beating would be an understatement. The first round of drinking the solution I only made one trip to the porcelain princess..round two was five...and it was not pleasant.
The procedure itself was simple. Arrive at 8am, wait my turn, get put under, and out the door between 30 and 45 minutes later. My follow up is scheduled to go over my results in a couple of weeks and hopefully I won't have to undergo the procedure again for another 3-5 years.
The reason I'm writing about this isn't to scare anyone away from screenings...it's the opposite. The day after I talked about it on "The Bottom Line" (weekday afternoons from 3-5pm btw) and a gentleman called saying he did the fecal tests instead of getting a colonoscopy. He eventually went for one and was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and lost 18 inches from his colon as a result. He said he wished he would've done the colonoscopy instead of the fecal tests.
While colon cancer has become one of the leading cancer killers, it is also one of the most preventable. That is the biggest takeaway. If you are 45 or if you are younger and have a family history of colon cancer, get screened as soon as possible. It really could save your life.
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Gallery Credit: Hannah Lang