A STITCH IN TIME.
If you live in my native Australia, you may have heard the soft Brogue voice of Dr. Norman Swan talking about bowel cancer screening programs by the Lions, which involve you taking part of a sample and sending it away for a faecal blood occult test. Other countries around the world may have a similar process for people about to turn 50.
50 is within striking distance for me, but this week, I had to have a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy, the former of which is the topic I want to discuss. I am not a doctor, so I can’t provide medical information.
This was my second colonoscopy, and at my first, I was told that everything was clear. This time, however, I woke up to have my gastroenterologist tell me that she had removed a 17mm polyp from my bowel, the type that can take around eight years to turn malignant. I was surprised, but at the same time relieved. Relieved to think that at 47, I had something removed that, had I waited until I was 55, I could have been told by my gastroenterologist, if I was lucky, “You have early stage bowel cancer.” If I was unlucky, I could have been told that I needed a colorectal surgeon, and if I was even more unlucky, the colorectal surgeon may have said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t operate.” And it may have spread to my lungs, brain, liver and bones.
My former hairdresser, the one who suspected I was autistic, died from melanoma, and it’s sad that a small mole could later spread to her spine, to her brain and everywhere, and despite fighting so hard, cancer won.
My message to people is, the faecal occult blood test can be misleading in that it can detect but not differentiate between a little bit of blood from an anal fissure and black blood from cancer, but as my gastroenterologist said, that is what gets people on the bus, figuratively. If they have blood, it’s detected and they are referred for a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is your best test for bowel cancer.
Some may have seen bowel cancer presented as a time bomb, and that’s pretty accurate. A polyp develops over time before it turns cancerous. If you can get to it before then, well, that’s good.
I have seen opposition to vaccine mandates and claims that you should be able to do your own research, but there’s some things to remember. Bowel cancer screening is not an industry, it is a public health screening measure. Okay, you don’t have to show a certificate to enter a pub or club for bowel cancer screening and bowel cancer is not contagious, but if you look at cemeteries around the world, they are littered with people who died young. Once upon a time there was no such thing as chemotherapy. Once upon a time, colonoscopies were unheard of.
What I say to people is, if your doctor suggests a colonoscopy, you have it. It goes back to the old adage, a stitch in time saves nine.