How many times have we talked about discovering a cure for cancer? When we do that, an image comes to mind of one thing, a pill, a vaccine, one discovery in a lab somewhere when a genius finally shouts, "Eureka!" and boom, cancer is a thing of the past.
The truth is, the cure for cancer may be much more slow-growing, like cancer itself. In fact, it might already be here on some levels. I'm talking about prevention. Prevention being the cure. As we increasingly learn what causes cancer and increasingly discover ways to detect it early, even in some cases before it becomes cancer, we eliminate the dreaded disease by nipping it in the bud, so to speak.
For instance, I recently interviewed a surgeon who specializes in colon cancer. He told me that colon cancer should not even exist. He said nobody should have it. That's a pretty radical statement, considering colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, behind lung cancer, but his logic is compelling...and heartbreaking.
Colonoscopies are so reliable in preventing colon cancer that if everyone who should get one actually does it, virtually all colon cancers could be avoided. But here is the astounding part: only 55 percent of everyone who is recommended to get a colonoscopy, actually get one. That's almost half of everyone, literally rejecting a cure for cancer.
Colonoscopies work this way: a doctor takes a long, flexible probe with a camera (and a light) at the end of it and inserts it into your anus and pushes it all the way through your colon, searching for growths called polyps. If a polyp is detected, it's removed right then, problem solved. If you don't have any polyps, you usually don't need another colonoscopy for ten years. Now if a person neglects to get their colonoscopy and has a polyp in their colon, it can grow and become a tumor. Once that happens people start getting symptoms like abdominal pain, bloody stools, thin stools and constipation. Then they go to their doctor and learn they have colon cancer. By that time it's often too late. Oh, sure, the surgeon will go in and remove the tumor from the colon, but by the time people start having symptoms that means the tumor has grown pretty big and chances are the cancer has now spread into the lymphnodes or the liver and then you're really in trouble. That's not to say colon cancer isn't survivable, because it is. But it very often is not. Even if you do survive, you must go through the expense and trouble of cancer treatment, when the whole thing could have been avoided.
Sadly, like you, I have known many people who have died from cancer: lung cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer. But i have personally known more people to die from colon cancer than any other type. It took the lives of three people I LOVED. And guess what? None of them had colonoscopies.
Why don't people get these life-saving tests? The doctor I talked to said it's because people mistakenly believe colonoscopies are painful. Now, while getting a colonoscopy is nobody's idea of a good time, they aren't as bad as they used to be. For one thing, the docs give you some really good drugs beforehand, so most folks are feelin' no pain. In fact, most folks fall asleep during the test or don't remember a thing. The laxative you have to take the day before is also a real turn-off to getting a colonoscopy. But the laxatives these days aren't as harsh as they used to be. In fact, many docs give laxatives in the pill form, and they're easy to swallow.
So here's the skinny: GET A COLONOSCOPY AT AGE 50...BUT IF YOU HAVE A BLOOD RELATIVE WHO HAS HAD COLON OR RECTAL CANCER GET YOUR COLONOSCOPY AT AGE 40!!
Additional things you can do to prevent cancer (but not as a substitute!) include avoiding red meat, eating lots of fiber, particularly in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise as much as you can, shoot for 30 minutes (or more!) daily, and manage your stress. Stress management is important because when we are stressed, our bodies release hormones called cortizol and adrenaline, which inhibit our cells from fighting cancer. By the way, stress isn't just being wound-up in traffic. In addition to anger, stress is also lonliness, depression, boredom, isolation. A strong spiritual life, particularly prayer, is a good stress-reducer. Also, getting involved in your community, volunteering, which ties into your spiritual life, is also a great stress-buster. For more on this topic I highly recommend the book, "Younger Next Year" by Dr. Harry Lodge.
So get your colonoscopy and encourage everyone you know to do the same! Let's put those colon cancer surgeons out of business! They'd probably rather be on the golf course than in the operating room anyway.