COLUMN: Colonoscopies don't have to be dreaded

Posted 7/15/21

As I write this Monday afternoon, I seemed to have nicely survived today one of the most dreaded rites of modern manhood, the colonoscopy test (with an EGD test thrown in for good measure.) 

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COLUMN: Colonoscopies don't have to be dreaded

Posted

As I write this Monday afternoon, I seemed to have nicely survived today one of the most dreaded rites of modern manhood, the colonoscopy test (with an EGD test thrown in for good measure.) 

There is dread for the colonoscopy. First, it is the test that determines the presence of cancer or pre-cancer in the colon, and polyps can be removed as part of the test. You will remember that Chadwick Boseman, star of "The Black Panther," died at age 43 from colon cancer. 

WebMD stated, "The American Cancer Society says about 150,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020 and 53,000 people will die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-related death for both men and women. However, if it is caught early, colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate."

In fact, there are arguments many should get the test earlier, such at 45. The American Cancer Society and the Alabama Department of Public Health said in a report in November 2019 that in Alabama, about 2,330 new cases of colon and rectum cancer were expected for 2019, with about 930 deaths from that cancer for that year in the state. Rates were higher in the state than in the national 38.8 rate of occurrence--with the rate for black males at 58.8.

The National Cancer Institute said in November, "Since the 1990s, the rate of colorectal cancer (which includes cancers of the colon and rectum) has more than doubled among adults younger than 50. Not only that, but more younger people are dying from the disease." Nearly 18,000 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year in the United States, said Rebecca Siegel, M.P.H., of the American Cancer Society. Diet (such as processed foods), obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking are thought to be possible culprits. 

I'm 58 and I've not had a colonoscopy, AND I've had cancer, so I was way overdue. Plus, I've had reflux so I was concerned about other problems.

And I totally dreaded it all. I heard all the horror stories. 

In addition to what I was given at Dr. Luis Davila's office, I did some more research. I learned to adjust my diet a day or two before the weekend, cutting out fiber and eating more lean meat. I learned that most sites consistently recommended Gatorade to use for the prep mix the night before the test, and for the liquid diet because of its sugar and electrolytes to keep up your energy. I wound up drinking Gatorade most of the weekend and found it did the best job of anything. 

The funny thing is that the color of drinks mattered, and everyone seemed to disagree a little on which colors, although red seemed a no-no with everyone, as certain colors make it tougher for detection of polyps. I finally decided on yellow lemon-lime Gatorade. The same goes for soft drinks and Jell-O, which are OK to use in general; I got green Jell-O and I guess it psychologically made me think I was eating lunch and dinner. 

By the way, clear liquids recommended included Gatorade, apple juice, white grape juice, cran-apple juice (over my dead body), broth, tea, coffee with no milk or creamer, Kool-aid, and any soft drink that wasn't red or purple colored. 

Saturday, I cheated a little by having scrambled eggs for breakfast, but I had understood that was still not a bad infraction; I got some protein anyway, and I had been a little hungry the night before. 

At 3 p.m. Sunday I took four Dulcolax tablets as prescribed. Knowing I was going to be drinking like the Rat Pack in Vegas, albeit without alcohol, I didn't drink as much Sunday afternoon. At 5 p.m., the mixed Gatorade was broken out, 8 ounches at a time in 15 or 30 minute intervals - and with a straw, as websites practically fainted about how bad the taste would be. (Truthfully, I've had much worse.) 

At any rate, the test went off quickly Monday. Dad quoted Davila saying it went great and nothing was found. Davila and the staff at Walker Baptist Medical Center couldn't have been nicer or more professional. It was a pleasant experience, and I got an hour's extra rest essentially. It may be unusual, but I felt well enough afterward that, after a short rest at the apartment, I decided Dad could drive us both to Cracker Barrel for a grilled chicken salad. I never dreamed I would even be writing this column Monday afternoon afternoon, but I've really needed no rest. 

I'm glad that is over with, obviously. It may be unusual to read about a colonoscopy, but we need to take out the mystic and the dread, at least enough so people will get this vital test. Your result may not be so problem-free as mine, but it is possible that your life could be saved as a result by finding a polyp in time. 

And that is worth all the Gatorade you can chug-a-lug in one weekend. 

More information on colonoscopies can be found in a Brookwood Baptist Health video, at https://youtu.be/YJ6xCDw3qUE, or in general at https://bbhcarenetwork.com/specialties/gastroenterology/.

(Ed Howell is news editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at ed.howell@mountaineagle.com.)