I passed my test
again! My colonoscopy, that is.
I had my first one at age 60 and it was normal, so I waited 10
years before having another. After the colonoscopy, Dr. Christensen
informed me there were no cancers or polyps but only some
diverticula. Next test will be at age 80.
Colorectal cancer remains the second-largest cancer killer in our
country. First place goes to lung cancer because of the number of
people still smoking.
The rate of colon cancer has begun to fall and this is attributed
to the colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy screening and the removal of
the polyps found. It is exciting that doctors can prevent a
There are three types of polyps, but hyperplastic polyps have
been found not to be pre-malignant. However, polyps that are
diagnosed as tubular adenomas or villous adenomas are believed to
progress into cancers if not removed. Cancer is rarely found in
polyps smaller than 1 centimeter in size, and this allows polyps to
be removed and to prevent a cancer.
The progression of the colon lining to form a polyp and the polyp
to then form a cancer may take as long as 10 years. This is the
reason that if you have a normal colonoscopy, you don't need another
for 10 years.
My colonoscopy was not painful at all. The hardest part was
preparing the colon the night before and the morning of the test. A
colon that has not been completely cleaned cannot be examined.
The "prep" consists of drinking three glasses of clear Gatorade
or ginger ale the night before in a one-hour period. A tablespoon of
phosphosoda (Fleets Oral) is put in each glass. About two hours
later your bowels will start growling and you shouldn't be far from
That evening is so much fun that the doctor has you repeat it the
next morning, about four hours before the exam. It is rare that the
bowel is not completely clean if you follow the directions.
What do I remember of the exam? Nothing! I remember Christensen's
nurse saying, "I'm giving you some Fentanyl into your IV." The next
thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room. Actually, I also
received a Versed IV, which has a wonderful amnesic effect.
The national recommendations for an age for your first
colonoscopy has been evolving over recent years. Because of the
benefit of removing the polyps, the first exam should be at 50.
If there is someone in the family who has had colon cancer, the
first colonoscopy should be at 40. If a patient has ulcerative
colitis, the first colonoscopy should be at 20 years after the start
of their disease.
Don't miss the opportunity to prevent developing this major
Thank you, Dr. Christensen. See you in 10 years.
Dr. John N. Withers is a practicing general surgeon in