My First Colonoscopy at 45: Preventative Measures Against Colon Cancer

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Let’s get to the point! Colon or colorectal cancer is the third most infamous type of cancer and also the third leading cause of cancerous deaths among American men and women. I’m alarmed by negative statistics and equally saddened by the 50,000 average lives this disease accounts for annually. Thankfully, positive health means prevention over resistance so I decided to schedule a colonoscopy on my 45th birthday and reward myself with a better piece of mind knowing I am doing everything possible to live a longer and more fulfilling life.

Mathematically, being black in the United States typically means increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer and prostate cancer due to traditional food habits, heightened levels of sedentary behaviors and disproportionate income levels. However, I refuse to be cast into a script that is not indicative of the evolutionary choices I’ve made. I eat a plant-based diet consisting of five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily and religiously take in whole greens, legumes (beans), seeds and nuts. This is key since the World Health Organization, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research have determined that processed meats are correlated to various cancers while red meat specifically, along with a lack of dietary fiber and exercise, is one of the main culprits for initiating colon cancer. Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco will not help your cause either. Thankfully I have made wise decisions that have led to the prevention or elimination of these carcinogens.

Today’s generation has to quell the negative societal health statistics affecting Americans who are some of the sickest people in the world in comparison to other Nations. We have too many edifying tools at our disposable not to evolve educationally. Applied knowledge is power. “Moderation applies to healthy things, not to carcinogens. And processed meats are indeed carcinogens,” stated Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., President, Physicians Committee. With this in mind please cut out the hot dogs and bacon and increase your servings of quinoa, Swiss chard and chickpeas please!

Keep in mind colonoscopy screening standards used to be advised starting at age 50 but the American Cancer Society has altered their guidelines to age 45, especially African Americans.  If all checks out then the next screening won’t be for another 10 years. If the elongated, flexible tube observing your colon (incorporates a camera on one end) finds polyps in the wall of the intestine the endoscopist will cut them out on the spot and send to a pathologist for a biopsy. If they are cancerous you will be advised of treatment option.

During preparation for my procedure I did become nervous at times wondering if I did enough as a younger adult to avoid any such polyps. Yet, proaction is far better than procrastination and I eat fibrous foods as if I’m a grazing, herbivorous animal. And fiber is like a broom that sweeps your intestines clean. The day prior to the colonoscopy I was required to fast on water (or other clear beverages) and drink half of the Suprep Bowel Prep Kit to liquify my stool and induce bowel movements. The physicians want you totally flushed out. The downside is that the kit will set you back a whopping $85 even when using insurance. This is surely a deterrent for those already on the fence about the procedural out-of-pocket expenses.

On the day of the colonoscopy I had to drink the other half of the solution and then headed to the office 4 hours later. After checking my blood pressure and EKG I was put to sleep within 20 seconds so the surgeon could go to work. I awoke in less than an hour languidly hoping for positive results. No problem as I received a satisfactory report and was told to check back in 10 years. But knowing me I’ll be on the appointment line in five.

So be smarter in 2019 people and schedule a colonoscopy if you’re of age or past due. Cancer doesn’t discriminate so never think you’re too cool, hip or sassy for this simple and reassuring exam.