News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, JULY 22, 2007


Prep is most difficult part of test

You can tell who they are as they come through the wide door at Decatur Generalís surgery center. They come in pairs, and only one of them is smiling.

The unsmiling one, who moves cautiously toward the sign-in window, then to the seat closest to the bathroom is the patient, the one who is having a colonoscopy.

The other person is the designated driver, probably a husband or wife. Both are usually age 50 and above. Thatís the age when medical authorities say is a good time for that first peek inside the colon to see if you are growing cancer-causing polyps.

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed malignancy in people above age 50. The good news, however, is that the death rate from this cancer is on a 15-year slide because of the colonoscopy.

I had my (Iím counting) third colonoscopy last week. Iím fine. Dr. Tom Short said for me to report back in five years and weíd do the fourth one.

Colonoscopy veterans offer empathy. Theyíve suffered the indignities of preparation and benefited from this advance in medical science. Pushed, they will share a secret from their last colonoscopy. They might even share one from their spouseís last check-up, too.

They agree that a self-induced diarrhea is no more fun than repeatedly banging your finger with a hammer. Yet they smile. You donít because you know you are doing this to yourself. You drink the salty gook and push yourself to drink another soda, or glass of water or Gatorade.

Your colon rumbles and you are bathroom bound. Then you drink some more. And more. And more.

The colonoscopy is not bad. Chances are you wonít remember the experience. The preparation is the great leveler, the common denominator, because of its nature. Thatís what you remember.

No one dies from a colonoscopy. Yet millions of people live because they had the test.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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