THE MEDICINE CABINET
There's a New Man in Town
By Jean Sutherland

     It's Polyp Man, and he's no Casanova. He's the villain in a series of public service announcements being broadcast on a number of television stations. Dressed in red tights and a bulbous red suit, Polyp Man runs from doctors who are out to get him.
The ads are being sponsored by the American Cancer Society in an effort to raise awareness and to persuade people to get tested for colon cancer. The bottom line is "Get the test, get the polyp and get the cure."
Everyone over the age of 50 should be getting tested but less than 44% actually do. The Cancer Society estimates that 50% of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if people would just get screened. So why do people resist testing? First they perceive that the tests are going to be invasive, painful and downright em- barrassing. Most do not know that simple fecal tests can detect abnormalities and they may be embarrassing but they are not painful. Some though will have to go through a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy and this is when people start to go into denial.
So let's look at some of the facts before we go running scarred. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well tolerated and rarely causes much pain. If you're worried about pain or discomfort then tell your doctor you want something to help you relax and make it easier for you. There may be a feeling of pressure, bloating, or cramping at various times during the procedure. You will be lying on your side while the sigmoidoscope is advanced through the rectum and lower colon. As the instrument is inserted and then withdrawn, the lining of the intestine is carefully examined. The procedure usually takes 5 to 15 minutes.
Ok, doesn't sound too bad. Not great, but can you buck up for 5 to 15 minutes and get through this procedure and give yourself a 50% chance of living longer? That of course is for you to answer. It's your life and you always have the right to choose.
Now let's examine the Colonoscopy. Dreadful words these doctors can dream up for procedures! You would think they'd develop names that do not scare us half to death. Ok, a colonoscopy is also usually well tolerated and rarely causes much pain. There is often a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping at times during the procedure. Your doctor may give you medication through a vein to help you relax and better tolerate the procedure. If you want to feel better while having this done, then tell your doctor that is what you want. There is no reason in the world that you cannot have something that is going to make you more comfortable. You lie on your side or your back while the colonoscope is advanced slowly through the large intestine. As the colonoscope is slowly advanced and then withdrawn, the lining is carefully examined. The procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes.
That's it. Three tests, one easy, two a little more uncomfortable. Over and done with in no time. Is 15 to 20 minutes of discomfort worth the knowledge that you have nothing to worry about? That's a question only you can answer. Just remember one thing-50% more lives could be saved if people would simply have this procedure.