Turning 50 means more than graying hair, AARP solicitations and creaky joints.
It's also when physicians tactfully remind patients they've reached that magical age where a colonoscopy is recommended to screen for colon cancer.
When my time came I hemmed and hawed and agreed it was probably a good idea and then did nothing for about a year. Let's face it, it's not the sort of examination that inspires the subject to run to the front of the line and shout, "Me first!"
Even discussing or writing about colonoscopy exams generates negative sentiments. Admit it, dear reader: As soon you discerned the topic of this column there was a strong temptation to page ahead to The Wizard of Id comic strip or to check out how the Twins did.
Getting past our discomfort with indelicate topics is the only way to prevent the needless deaths that occur because of colon cancer that goes undetected. When the disease is spotted in early stages, the experts tell us, people diagnosed with the disease have a 90 percent survival rate.
For those who are reluctant to schedule a colonoscopy, let me try to put your fears to rest. I had one earlier this year and it was a piece of cake. I literally didn't feel a thing. One moment I was chatting with my doctor and nurse and the next moment I was in the recovery room with my wife.
During the procedure (you have to love that benign, medical word) the patient is under conscious sedation that creates a mild form of amnesia.
Dr. Nick Bernier, medical director at St. Joseph's Medical Center, tells the story of a patient who balked at paying his bill because, to the best of his memory, "you didn't do anything."
For good reasons, the doctors won't let you drive home after the procedure. I foolishly inquired whether I could walk the four or five blocks to my home. The understanding staff person at St. Joseph's Medical Center said I might physically be able to, but that I would be pretty woozy from the after-effects of the drugs. If I encountered any police, she ventured, they might think I was drunk. Not wanting to further diminish my reputation among north Brainerd neighbors I enlisted my wife as driver.
Dr. Ron Sorenson of Brainerd Medical Center is a member of a committee that's working to call attention to the benefits of colonoscopies. He said the age of 50 is standard for a colonoscopy but if there's a family history of colon cancer the procedure is recommended for 10 years before the age when the family member was diagnosed with the disease.
"Our goal is to decrease the incidence of cancer of the colon in the Brainerd area," Dr. Sorenson said. "If that goal is not attainable, we hope to at least decrease the incidence of advanced colon cancer. That would save human lives."
And even though few of us over-50 relics imagined what our lives would be like at this age the consensus is we're in no hurry to pass into the great ethereal beyond.
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