Overcoming the embarrassment of colon-related issues

Published 7:59 pm Friday, March 18, 2016

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. The disease is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Health professionals in Beaufort County are looking to raise awareness about colorectal cancer, especially how preventable it is. However, there are still many misunderstandings.

First, cancer screenings — usually colonoscopies in this case — are not something to be feared. For the vast majority of people, the procedure goes well. Prepping a patient is now easier than ever and steps are taken to make it more comfortable for said patient. The procedure itself is performed with very little risk of injury, and patients are sedated to avoid any discomfort. In reality, the worst part of a colonoscopy is just the fear of the unknown.

People also have a tendency to assume they will know if something is wrong “down there,” and think there is no need to be screened. That could be a fatal assumption. The symptoms of colon cancer are often the same as those for hemorrhoids, or come in the form of easily ignored changes in bowel movements and bloating.

It’s easy to push it aside and ignore the symptoms altogether. No one wants to think the worst. But it is better to be safe than sorry. Catching polyps in the colon is a much less daunting issue than finding late-stage colon cancer. It’s also essential to remember that this disease affects men and women equally, and anyone over the age of 50 should consider a screening.

Most importantly, do not be afraid to talk about these awkward topics. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, and yes, it’s no fun to discuss. But colon cancer is nothing to be trifled with, so now is the time to let go of that embarrassment.

It’s no laughing matter to doctors, and taking charge of one’s colon health should be a priority. In the end, it could very well save one’s life.