Dying of Embarrassment

Dying of Embarrassment

Dying of Embarrassment

By Dr. Garret Shaw

Thousands of people die every year from embarrassment.  In fact, it is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with roughly 50,000 deaths yearly.  I’m talking about colon cancer. 

People do not want to be screened for colon cancer, because they are embarrassed by getting a colonoscopy.

“You’re gonna put what, where?”

We’ll just put it out there. Rear–end. The back porch. Your derriere. This is where we have to go to find colon cancer. The earlier it is found, the better the chances of beating this disease. In fact, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance says that with early detection, colorectal cancer has a 90% survival rate. However, you must be screened before symptoms develop. Usually, by the time symptoms develop, the cancer has invaded nearby structures and the liver, which carries a poor prognosis.

The American Cancer Society has lowered the starting age to 45 to begin yearly screenings for colon cancer with fecal-occult blood test (looking for blood in the stool) and colonoscopy every ten years. Colon cancers grow very slowly, and this is why screening can be done that infrequently. Screening of higher-risk individuals (history of polyps, family history) can be done more frequently.

And, for a fun and educational experience, Gothenburg Health will have a 20 foot inflatable colon on display in the Larry Gill Board Room March 21-25. Walking inside the colon one can see what normal colon tissue looks like, what a polyp looks like, and the transformation of an unremoved polyp into colon cancer. Stop by to see for yourself the importance of early screening, to learn more about risk factors and symptoms, and to receive prevention tips.

Let’s just come to grips with our backsides, and get screened for colon cancer. 

When it comes to a colonoscopy, many people have described discomfort with the procedure. However, almost all patients do not remember the actual procedure, and in fact, sleep through it. The worst part, for my patients, is the bowel prep, which isn’t surprising, considering you have to drink a lot of fluid in a relatively short time. We now have preps available that are of smaller volume, and more palatable. A good prep is important. If you’re going to the trouble of having the procedure done, we might as well be able to see something while we’re in there. There’s no need to be embarrassed.

March is Colorectal Cancer month and a good time to get this oft-overlooked screening test done. 

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