Colonoscopy: A midlife rite of, um, passage

The youngest of us baby boomers turned 50 in 2014, at a rate of one every 7 seconds. Know what that means? For the estimated 12,500 people a day who hit the half-century mark last year, it’s time for a colonoscopy, the gold-standard screening test for colon cancer.

Call it a mid-life rite of, um, passage. Starting at age 50, those of us at average risk for colon cancer – men and women – should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Due to some familial health issues, I’ve had the procedure every five years since I was in my late thirties. Lucky me. No, seriously, I am lucky. I’ve gotten a clean bill of health every time.

The test itself isn’t bad. You’re nicely sedated so you don’t feel or remember a thing (at least I never have). The worst part is the prep you have to undergo the day before the test – what’s politely referred to as bowel cleansing. For my first test, I had to drink a gallon of stuff called Golytely that caused my bowels to move in a way that was anything but, inspiring this:

Golytely bowel prep
is a misnomer. More like
Go violently.

But the outcome (you should pardon the expression) is worth it. Colon cancer – the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. – can be prevented by finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous, and that’s what a colonoscopy makes possible. The disease is also highly treatable if it’s found early.

Oh, and because your gut is so emptied out from the prep, your stomach is flatter – at least until they pump you full of carbon dioxide to inflate your colon and give the doctor a better view during the exam. As a result, after the test you’re seriously bloated and the nurse encourages you to let ‘er rip in recovery (which you hope takes place in a private room).

So youngest boomers, get going…and schedule your colonoscopy. A few hours of projectile pooping and professionally sanctioned, public farting is a small price to pay for peace of mind.




Roxanne Jones

About Roxanne Jones

By day, Roxanne Jones is an award-winning freelance copywriter specializing in health and medicine. She launched Boomer Haiku, a humorous blog about life as a baby boomer, in 2015, and a Boomer Haiku greeting card line in 2016 (available at 6 Maine stores; visit to learn more). Born and raised in Brunswick, she left Maine after high school (Class of 1971) and, after living in Massachusetts and California, came screaming back to her home state in 2006. She enjoys chardonnay, laughing at the foibles and frustrations of getting older, and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.