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home : columns : dear harriette November 29, 2020

9/28/2020 8:42:00 AM
Readers respond to colonoscopy fears

DEAR READERS: Many of you wrote in about the man who was afraid to get a colonoscopy. I am sharing a few of your comments here. Thank you all for your caring and thoughtful comments.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I read your column today in the Bay Area News Group paper. Thank you for addressing the need for people over 50 to get colon cancer screenings and for your compassionate response.

A family member of mine waited too long to get tested. When that person finally did -- keeping in mind that one or two colon polyps can be of concern and definitely should be removed and tested for cancer -- they discovered a veritable forest of them. This person had to stay in surgery much longer than expected to try to save their life, go back again three months later to remove more, then again six months later, and finally again one year later. It worked ... they're alive today. But it was a very close call.

If people think their insurance doesn't cover the procedure, they need to ask. If the answer is that insurance doesn't, they can ask the doctor if it can be coded differently so their insurance will cover it. Or they can switch to a doctor who will, or change insurance providers so it can be. There are always options. You're right -- people are worth it.

The news of Chadwick Boseman's unexpected passing was devastating. I believe because of tragedies like these, medical professionals are starting to advocate for earlier testing, and insurance companies are starting to listen. Again, thank you for encouraging people to get tested.

DEAR SCARED (The man who originally wrote in): I was similar to you, a single male in my mid-50s. I finally gave in to my doctor and got a colonoscopy (which was fully covered by my insurance -- you or the doctor's office can check this beforehand).

The worst part is the prep ... and it's not all that bad, really! A few uncomfortable times in the bathroom, and drinking some horrible-tasting liquid. The procedure itself is a breeze. A small IV, and you go to sleep and wake up with minimal grogginess.

I was glad I did it, because they found a 4-cm polyp, and I had robotic-assisted surgery two weeks later, in which they removed an 8-inch section of small and large intestine (my appendix would have been gone if it hadn't already been removed 18 years before). Luckily, the biopsy results were great, only pre-cancerous inside the polyp itself. I just had a second colonoscopy (a year later), and everything was good. Please don't put off this procedure. It could save your life. -- Glad I Did It

DEAR HARRIETTE: Your response to "Scared" in your column today was incomplete and misleading. Since he is over 50, he surely should have a colon cancer screening, but you did him a disservice by recommending only one possible option (colonoscopy), which he had already rejected because of fear.

Here are the relevant medical guidelines:

Appropriate options for colon cancer screening include stool FIT tests, sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. A strategy using stool FIT tests is simple, sensitive and noninvasive. It would be an excellent option for someone who fears colonoscopy and whose insurance may not cover the substantial cost.

The most effective colon cancer screening is one that actually gets done. Someone who is afraid of colonoscopy should be encouraged to proceed with one of the alternative options rather than be told that they must have a test that they fear. -- Doc

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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