The healthcare industry deserves a lot of credit for raising awareness about the need for people my age to get screened for colon cancer.
Some of the ad campaigns are clever and engaging to grab people’s attention. My favorite one that popped up on a social media feed had a picture of the Atari 2600 with copy stating if you were excited to get that gaming console as a kid, then it’s time for a colon screening. I’m certainly in the target group for that ad.
When I met with my doctor last year, she encouraged me to get screened and the clinic provided me with an at-home colon cancer screening kit. When I came back for my annual wellness check last month, my doctor asked me if I’d done the screening. I had to admit that I hadn’t even opened the kit. She emphasized the importance of the testing, told me she wasn’t going to ask nicely a third time, and her clinic gave me a new kit because they have expiration dates.
My doctor made the valid point that she doesn’t advocate for my wellbeing by doing whatever she can to help me stay healthy only for me to drop the ball by not doing an at-home screening. The message was well received.
The barrier to me doing the screening was erroneous information someone gave me claiming the test would require me to defecate in a bag and send it to a lab. The person who told me this is not a healthcare worker and clearly had not done the screening himself. What I discovered when I finally opened the kit two weeks ago is that the screening is fast, easy, with no bag required. It took me longer to read the instructions than to follow them.
I mailed the kit to the lab on Tuesday and the results, which were posted in my electronic health record that Friday, came back “normal.” It was good news.
I know several people who have had colon cancer. One is a friend who was feeling perfectly healthy, ran almost every day, and was stunned when his screening revealed he had cancer. He ended up having lymph nodes surgically removed, and once again feels perfectly healthy. He told me if he wouldn’t have completed the screening when he did, he may have had a much less desirous outcome down the road.
There’s something to be said for gaining the peace of mind that comes with knowing my colon is normal. It gives my family peace of mind too so they’ll stop hounding me to get the screening done and coming up with worst-case scenarios if I don’t. I do understand the concern. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
I’m not a medical expert and certainly have no business telling people what they should or shouldn’t do regarding their health, but I will say don’t let a fear or uneasiness about an at-home colon cancer screening be the barrier to doing it. It’s really not that bad.