By The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Visiting the doctor can be a scary time for some, even when all that’s expected is a routine check-up. So imagine the kinds of worries some may have when it’s time for a colorectal screening. Four patients share their experiences undergoing the exam.

Tom, Age 66

“Even as a health professional who should know better, I had delayed and delayed getting a colonoscopy until well beyond the recommended initial screening age. Delay, of course, was due to the uncertainty about the discomfort of the procedure and prior cleansing process. Finally, my wife’s ‘encouragement’ and my sister having had the procedure done and finding several pre-cancerous polyps eventually got to me!”

“I had my first colonoscopy when I was 60 and it turned out to be simple, pain-free and not at all what I had worked it up to be. I did have one pre-cancerous polyp, but am really lucky that I had it removed at that point.”

Harriett, Age 88

“I’m a colon cancer survivor. I’m doing fine now. It’s been 14 years since I found out I had colon cancer and had surgery and chemotherapy.”

“At the time, routine screening for this disease was not discussed or done, and my doctor never told me to get tested. Of course, now I know that having a colonoscopy can find polyps and the doctor can even remove polyps during the test. I think if I had been tested earlier, the doctor could have removed polyps from me and they never would have turned into cancer.”

Kevin, Age 56

“I may have a slight bias when it comes to having appropriate cancer screening completed at the right age. I have been working in the cancer field for many years and have heard the important messages about the need to get screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50. I also knew I had options; that more than one screening method can be effective. What I didn’t anticipate was the personal ‘support’ from my friends and colleagues asking days before my 50th birthday and regularly thereafter, did you make your appointment yet? The reminders were regular and the approaches varied from offering assistance if I needed help with driving to an appointment to comments like, I should know better and how come I haven’t made my appointment yet! Letting the shock of turning the new decade pass, and juggling a very busy work schedule, I finally made the call months later to schedule a colonoscopy.”

“When I saw my doctor, I let him know I needed a referral for one and he said to me, ‘This is a switch, a patient asking for it!’ I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to make the appointment and that I didn’t have to wait months and months for the procedure. But then I began the dread of anticipating the preparation for it. In hindsight, it was all fine and the actual day really went quite smoothly. When I checked in that morning, the nurse asked me why I was there and I said, ‘Do you have a place to check off “peer pressure” as the reason for the appointment?’ During the screening, I was glad that I was only mildly sedated so I could watch and interact with the doctor and staff. I got to ask questions and see everything. I am one of those people that it helped give me comfort to be able to participate vs. just lie there. I was glad they were open to my involvement.”

“Most importantly, I am done and the news was good! I have a sense of relief that I have done one more important thing to help take care of myself. Now it is my turn to offer the personal ‘support’ to friends and family as they come of age!”

Cindy, Age 58

“My mother had colon cancer. Luckily, she was treated and is well now. But because my mother had it, my doctor thought I should get tested when I was in my mid-40s. I remember drinking all of the ‘special’ stuff the day before (to clean out the colon). That was the hardest part of getting tested. During the test (I had a colonoscopy), I wanted to know what was going on, so I wasn’t totally asleep. I actually watched it on a television monitor and it was interesting! They didn’t find anything, and I was told to come back after I was 50.”

“Well, I’m over 50 now, and have had two more colonoscopies. I had polyps both times and they were removed during the colonoscopy. I didn’t have any symptoms at all… this proves how valuable screening for colorectal cancer is. While I don’t know for certain that the polyps would have turned into cancer, I’m glad I won’t have the chance to find out!”

“I tell everyone I can to get screened for colon cancer. I know, from seeing my mother go through treatment, that getting tested is no big deal compared with getting treated.”

This information is courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Visit their website for the latest information on colorectal cancer.

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