Myron B. Pitts: Bottom line is screenings for colon cancer can save your life – Fayetteville Observer

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Jul 02 2017

What did you do to get ready for the July Fourth weekend?

I had my first colonoscopy last Thursday.

Im a few years shy of when doctors typically recommend these should start. But I experienced a big weight loss in the spring, and there were other less-dramatic concerns. African Americans are also at higher risk for colorectal cancer, so yay, another great statistic we belong to.

I had my appointment with Cape Fear Center for Digestive Diseases, off Boone Trail. Theres a name that makes it plain, huh? Diseases. Makes you think theyre bound to find something in your body thatll depress all your friends on Facebook, or at least the ones who like you.

Why are there no medical clinics named The Center for Rainbows and Ice Cream or The Center for Its Probably Nothing But Lets Take A Look-See Shall We?

Dr. Sanjeev Slehria, gastroenterologist, was my guy. On my weight loss, he said with a smile he figured journalism could be stressful, but not stressful enough to lose that much weight.

He scheduled me for an endoscopy, too, to look at my G.I. tract.

Your colon has to be clear of all guests, both long-term and overnight stays, so on Wednesday, I started a liquid diet. Jell-O I now consider the ramen noodle of desserts you go through the motion of eating it and dont feel one iota more full. Its a trick. So is broth.

They prescribe you a liquid solution to make you go, and I duly went. And went.

Thursday morning, my wife and I checked in at the somewhat palatial Digestive Health Endoscopy Center, farther down Boone Trail. The waiting room had the usual one bathroom per gender. I figured theyd have more in that particular waiting room, because of why people were there. On the other hand, I was the only one waiting who used the bathroom.

I surrendered my eyeglasses and phone to my wife, doctors orders. She kept my wallet, too, but that was her idea.

Everyone was nice at the Endo Center. The kind of people thatd be fun to meet over lunch and not just over a saline drip.

In the procedure room, Slehria told me what would happen. Id lie on my left side. In lay terms, camera 1 would go down the throat, and afterward camera 2 would travel up from the business end. I vaguely remember talking about vehicles,possibly electric cars, just before endoscopy tech Donna Raye inserted a mouth guard, and no it wasnt just to shut me up. Jessica Colombo, a nurse trained in anesthesia, administered the happy stuff.

I was out in seconds.

In a blink, I was back in recovery, nurse Dale Hatfield got me water, and my wife was by my side.

Slehria brought in lovely, well-lit pictures of my esophagus, stomach and colon. All relevantfeatureswere color-coded and numbered. You havent lived until youve seen a close-up of your cecum. It was like that sci-fi book Fantastic Voyage. But without the tiny submarine. Or the miniaturization of human beings. Or the sense of danger. OK, maybe it was nothing like that book.

What it truly was was easy. People should not fear a colonoscopy.

Colon cancer often has no symptoms until later stages. So screenings are important.

My colon screening, by the way, seemed to indicate no concerns, said Slehria, with a few tests still to come in.

Later, he told me people should start screening for colon cancer and colon polyps at age 50. The gastroenterologist associations now agree African Americans should start at 45, he said.

If polyps are found early, you can prevent colon cancer, he says, adding that cancer found earlier is more treatable.

And that, as they say, is the bottom line.

Columnist Myron B. Pitts can be reached at pittsm@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3559.

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Myron B. Pitts: Bottom line is screenings for colon cancer can save your life - Fayetteville Observer

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