Last week, I started a month long blog series on colon cancer and what we all need to know about it. The single most important thing we can do to prevent colon cancer is to get a colonoscopy when we reach age 50 (sometimes at a younger age if a person is symptomatic or has an immediate family history of colon cancer).
So let’s say tomorrow you are turning 50, and you happen to read this blog today. You do a little research on your own and you do realize that you should probably go ahead and get the ball rolling on your first colonoscopy.
First things first, see your primary care physician. They can go over a lot of information with you and refer you to a gastroenterologist, plus they know you and your health history better than anyone else, so it’s good to include them in this process.
Throughout 2016, I was experiencing occasional bleeding with bowel movements. As a nurse, I’m pretty knowledgeable about many health problems, so while I assumed it probably was an internal hemorrhoid contributing to the bleeding, I knew that there was a chance it was not. I met with my primary care physician, we talked about my concerns, and he agreed that a visit to a gastroenterologist was not a bad idea.
I knew we performed routine colonoscopies here at WVMC, so I talked to my friend in our Short Stay department and she suggested I meet with Dr. Giss because he might be available on a Wednesday or Thursday (usually, we do them on Monday and Tuesdays, but I work both of those days).
I set up an appointment at McMinnville Surgical Associates to meet with Dr. Giss and go over my concerns. While I was sitting in the lobby, I recognized a few familiar patients and they all said hello asked me what I was doing there.
I explained to each one of them that I was there to meet with Dr. Giss and discuss getting a colonoscopy. One of them acted quite surprised and uncomfortable when I mentioned the word colonoscopy, but I told them there was nothing to feel weird about and that I was excited to meet with Dr. Giss.
When I checked into the room, the nurse asked me a few questions to update my electronic medical record and explain my visit. I told her that I had met with my primary care physician after having some bleeding with bowel movements, and given my family history of colon cancer, he recommended I saw a gastroenterologist for further care.
She explained that far too many people do not seek medical attention when they have concerning symptoms. The most common symptom is usually rectal bleeding (often attributed to hemorrhoids), but other symptoms can include changes in bowel habits, persistent abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, and/or weakness and fatigue.
She told me that countless people they have treated are often far too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms and concerns, especially men. In fact, I’ve known many other people who have gotten colonoscopies performed, and many of them also appear too embarrassed to talk about their experience. She thought it was great that I was not embarrassed, and I told her that I would probably blog about it in the future (and here I am doing that now, lol).
After she was done, Dr. Giss came in and sat down with me. He was awesome. We talked about many things, including the frequency of my symptoms, the strong family history of gastrointestinal problems and colon cancer in my family, and the need for me to have answers.
Sometimes, people do not want to continue down the path to discovery, because they are too scared to find out if something is truly wrong. If something was wrong, I wanted to know, and we knew the way to find out was with a colonoscopy.
We scheduled it for the following week.
Next week, I’ll give you the rundown on the bowel prep that was involved the night before my colonoscopy. Boy, that was fun…