A Shout Out to a Maligned Medical Procedure

Never had I intended to write about a Colonoscopy and especially did not plan to get up on my soap box to praise its virtues.  But here I am!

As I rested on the  gurney this afternoon, waiting my turn, I thought a lot about how truly grateful I was to get this procedure. A rather strange turn around considering the day before I swore, “this is it; never again.”

The truth is the prep is shitty. (how could I resist) I find it extremely difficult, and the nurse said to me, “We can land Perseverance on Mars but we can’t find a better way to do the prep.” That old line is used for many things, but we are human beings, and some things that help us are frankly, unpleasant. I am sure you know that.

But that darn colonoscopy seems so primitive and raw and even embarrassing. And it must be painful! Certainly not something to talk about or write about in a blog post. But as I changed my mind today after swearing off this procedure, yesterday, I will tell you one simple truth. The Colonoscopy is a life saver. That is the bottom line, pun intended.

Here is my sales pitch.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer—if you are screened for hidden warning signs while you are still healthy. Screening finds precancerous growths on the colon wall, called polyps, which the doctor can then remove. The main benefit of a colonoscopy is that it helps detect early signs of cancer and allows the doctor to remove polyps which can turn cancerous. Harvard Medical School

The National Cancer Institute notes that colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the USA, and in Canada colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death.

For me personally, I have had three of these procedures spaced five years apart and each time I have precancerous polyps and they are removed. Not all polyps are precancerous, but my oncologist was constantly on her soapbox about this inelegant, amazing and life saving  procedure. And I am grateful to her.

Screening guidelines are available in every health region and maybe YOU don’t need to ever have one. But many do and should, yet they avoid it for all the reasons mentioned earlier.

I want to tell you that the colonoscopy itself is a cake-walk. It is quick, pain free, and any polyps are removed on the spot and sent to the lab. The medical teams are usually friendly and skillful at putting you at ease. The light sedative helps so you feel nothing. (optional) Most people only have it once every ten years and usually between the ages of 50-75, unless you have symptoms or family history and then it begins younger and can go longer.

The prep is what people dislike. It is unpleasant but manageable, and absolutely worth it.

So back to that gurney today. My wonderful Nurse inserted my IV in one try, which was remarkable for my small and rolling veins. The Anesthetist was excellent and encouraging, and my Surgeon  was vigilant, personable and funny. I’m sure there is lots of gallows humour in that clinic.

I meet many people who will not consider a Colonoscopy, which is 100% their business. However, if you are avoiding it out of incorrect information, you may want to reconsider. It just might save your life.

Maybe I can write a Haiku?  (5,7,5 syllables)


inelegant procedure

yet, saves many lives


Note: 1) “Life is choices, and they are relentless. No sooner have you made one choice than another is upon you.” ― Atul Gawande, MD, author of Being Mortal

Note 2:) Spring is making headway in Ottawa and daylight savings time is this weekend. Birds are singing and I have my appointment to remove my snow tires on the 31st. What joy!

Note 3:) Warmest greetings to you all, and “live your life large,” as Jim Button, put it tonight in an outstanding talk at Wellspring Calgary. Thanks so much for coming by here and I will see you next week. Warmly, Trudy

PS I think I have discovered the problem as to why my posts aren’t publishing and being delivered. If I am right you will get this soon. Whew!


3 replies
  1. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Awesome post Trudy. And SO so true. The truth is a colonoscopy is really not ‘that bad’…I feel the lead up to it and all the horror stories are what makes it ‘bad’ but it is so ‘easy’. Thanks for letting people know this very important fact. As Nike says ‘Just Do It’. : )
    Happy Spring days ahead to you and to us all…so happy to have this blue sky!!
    Love you.

  2. Mary MacKenzie
    Mary MacKenzie says:

    Trudy, So enjoyed the photo of the tulips. They are beautiful!! Yes spring is coming but it will be a while before we get tulips in PEI. But that’s okay – all is well here and Dr. Heather Morrison (CPH Officer) is doing an exemplary job of keeping us safe. Couldn’t agree with you more about the colonoscopy – I have had many!! Can’t say the prep is pleasant but it is so, so simple compared to colon surgery. Like face masks, hand washing, physical distancing & complying with lock downs, although not always pleasant, compared to the possible alternatives, it is a simple thing to do to protect myself and others. Just my opinion!
    Also like the quote from Azul Gawande – just finished reading that book a few weeks ago. Lots of food for thought in his writing. Thank you so much for all of your contributions to our overall wellness. Much appreciated. Mary


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