When considering cancers we often ask which is the most common but that doesn't tell the whole story. We would also want to know which cancer causes the most death (from the disease). The numbers are not always the same. For example, most people do not get lung or colon cancer, but they are top killers because of a lack of treatment options. When looking at men and women together, because we ARE different, colon cancer is the second largest cancer killer. You can learn about this cancer, and the risks for it at the website of the American Cancer Society - click here. The lifetime risk for colon (including rectal) is about 5% . It appears that, lung, breast, prostate and colon have similar rates of new cases per year, but colon kills second only to lung.
Colon cancer CAN be prevented and this is where the messy, inconvenient test comes in. The colonoscopy. The procedure can find pre cancerous lumps or polyps and they can be removed. People who are not at high risk (explained in the ACS link above - are currently recommended to have the test at age 50 - and then in ten year intervals)
To see some of the past posts on this procedure and its place in the prevention of colon cancer, click here.
The upshot for all those past posts is that I am crossing my fingers and biding my time for a screening that does not involve the colonoscopy as it is performed today. I cannot believe that with all the technological advances of the 21st century - we still have this to look forward to (see below). I suggest that the geniuses at Microsoft and Apple get into medical testing... (not that the virtual colonoscopy hasn't been created, it just needs work to be accepted and effective).
My walking buddy(well one of them), too young for a test, had to have one anyway - a few weeks ago. I had her tell me every single detail about the procedure. And, this is a horrible thing for a heath educator/promoter to say - but several times during her very detailed narrative I said, "I am NOT doing it."
I am not sure what I am most concerned with - a two day bowel cleanse - which dehydrates you to the point of being told to drink gatorade - or the anesthesia - prophenol is now being used by some providers to put you under "deeper."
The part about a camera being inserted through the rectum - as my friend described it - is maybe the least of a deterrent because, for her, there was no discomfort or no memory of a discomfort.
To continue with the full disclosure, after the procedure, which requires air to be "inserted" in the large intestine, the 'patients' have a lot of gas to expel. In fact, the nurses won't approve your discharge (from the out patient procedure) until you pass a predetermined amount of gas - My friend assured me that this started as soon as she woke from the anesthesia.
So again I say, REALLY? We can't do better than this in the year 2012? Come on....
For more details, well, of a different sort, WebMD offers an overview of the the test, prep and rationale here.