Colonoscopy: Part 1 -- My considerations for getting off my behind on behalf of my behind

I will be 54 this year, 4 years beyond the recommended colonoscopy initial screening age of 50.  I've been putting it off for a number of reasons.  None of them particularly good.

As part of my overall life 're-grouping' which I'll chalk up to my 2/3 life crisis (having long ago gone through mid life!), I'm catching up on things that I've put off because I didn't give them the proper priority in my life.  Not so much a crisis as it is a consolidation of focus and energy.  It helps too that I spoke to a friend of mine whose ex husband died last year of colon cancer.

I write this post to provide some information for consideration to those, like me, who might be on the fence about the necessity of colo-rectal screening procedures, specifically a colonoscopy.  If you are behind in looking after your behind, then consider the graph below, from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  The data is combined for 2010, and displays the incidence rate (how many new cases) for that year..   Visit the website here to explore on your own to see great granularity for males, females and race profiles.

What I found interesting from the above is that if  sex-based cancers of prostate and breast, and the smoker-based cancer of lung, are excised out colorectal cancer rises to the top.  (The above reminds me to get my mammography).

From the National Cancer Institute is a nice summary of colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates.  You can explore this information further here.

The good news is that the amount of new cases of colon cancer is decreasing.   From the Health Resources Administration, the following table on screening rates was obtained.  Explore further here.

The increase in screening measures from 2003 through 2008 increased 23.8% for commercial carriers.  That is a significant increase--and as noted below, screening is the single most important factor in reducing the incidence rate (because pre-cancerous polyps are removed prior to their blossoming into cancer) and improving the mortality rates (because cancerous 'stuff' is found earlier and early detection in any cancer dramatically improves outcomes).

My health plan is a grandfathered plan, so while I sailed through the conversion because of the grandfathered status (I have been on my individual plan since 2005), my plan benefits do not include colonoscopy procedure as a benefit that does not count toward the deductible.  My mammography is paid for, but not this screening.  I have a $5k deductible.  At least I pay for it at the contracted rate (and I'll post that here when the bill is presented and settled) which includes not only the procedure but the anesthesia.

As this post is long enough, I'll write another about my preparation and some things to consider. My doctor did find one small polyp that appears benign.  I'll find out in 5 days, and I don't have any particular angst about it.

If you are 50 or over and on the fence about a colonoscopy (like I was), I would like to leave you with this quote from the CDC (emphasis added):
Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum) so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancer is found early and treated are still alive five years later. If everyone aged 50 or older had regular screening tests and all precancerous polyps were removed, the majority of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. 

P. S.  Thanks to the government for providing such great information in the sources used here. 


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