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
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.