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The nagging from my primary care physician was incessant, so I finally got around to having my colon scoped for polyps, cancers and chewing gum swallowed during my childhood. Kids, this is one of the things you can look forward to once you hit the age of 50.

A colonoscopy involves insertion of a device into the colon. The device has a camera that lets the doctor see how well you did cleaning your colon prior to the procedure. It also allows detection of any abnormal growths, called polyps, that may be growing on the colon wall. The doctor has the option of removing the polyp using the attached cutting device installed in the tool. The flexible scope also includes a light, a tube for pushing in air or water, and a suction device. The camera is digital and produces high definition color video recordings. The videos of your procedure will make great Christmas gifts!

Back in olden days our ancestors had to make do with much less sophisticated devices. Doctors would duct tape a Polaroid Land camera and garden hose to a length of baling wire which they looped around to remove any polyps. Since the camera only took one picture at a time and had to be removed to develop, multiple insertions of the bulky device were required. Needless to say, many patients never opted for a second procedure. Thank goodness for progress and the miracles of 21st century medicine!

This was actually my third colonoscopy so I've become familiar with the procedure. The actual operation is not bad, as anyone who has had one will tell you. The hard part is the day before and morning of the procedure. You must spend a day on a liquid diet. Jell-O® becomes your friend. Don't eat red or purple Jell-O® as some doctors, though highly trained, may mistake it for blood. The really difficult part is the hideous solution you must drink in the evening and again some four hours prior to your hospital admission. It is a 16-ounce mixture of salts, flavored and sweetened, designed to act as a tidal wave in your gut to push out anything not already pooped out. You must then drink 32 ounces of water in the next hour afterward. Make sure you have reserved a bathroom for the next three hours. Better yet, get some reading material and just camp out on the toilet. Set your alarm for 4 a.m., try to sleep (yeah, right!), then get up and do it all over again. If you feel like crying afterward, go ahead, no one will judge you!

Actually, this torture is designed so that you will want to go to the hospital. Anesthesia is a welcome relief from the pain of your sore and tender posterior. Since I speak medical-ese to some extent, I always ask for my preferred short-term sedative. I have found that propofol with a side dish of anti-nausea medication gives me the best experience by far. I fully understand why Michael Jackson liked the stuff.

Once you are admitted and wheeled into the procedure room, the nurses and technicians will prepare you for the sedative, stick some needles in you and ask a bunch of questions to see if you are really who you think you are. When you hear a musical symphony and see everyone bowing, you know the doctor has entered the room. Treat him or her with respect and refrain from making jokes as to their chosen profession because, well, just think about what they will be doing to you in a few minutes. They have ample opportunity to pay you back for any perceived abuse you dish out. I find that if I tip my doctor beforehand he will make sure to use a brand new, never used endoscope. They will tell you that the devices are rigorously cleaned but my germ phobia makes me skeptical.

The entire procedure to inspect your six-foot colon takes only 20 to 40 minutes. The nice thing about using propofol is that there is no anesthesia "hangover" and it also wipes out all memory of why you were at the hospital. This is a good thing considering what just happened to you. Then you go to the nearest diner and eat real food to fill your vacated intestinal tract.

In all seriousness, colonoscopies save lives. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. More than 135,000 people will be diagnosed with and 50,000 will die this year from colon cancer. An estimated 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented simply by having a colonoscopy. So, yes, a colonoscopy is literally a pain in the butt; and well worth having if it saves your life. My screening showed no problems but I will gladly do the whole thing again in five years. Don't put off scheduling your procedure.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.houston@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 04/11/2018

Print Headline: Bored? Schedule a colonoscopy!

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