I had my first colonoscopy last week. How was it? Well, pretty much just like they say, meaning that the procedure itself (not that I remember a single second of it, which was just fine with me) wasn’t bad at all – but the hard part was the prep. Actually, though, I was greatly impressed with the efforts put into the entire process, from the scheduling, to the detailed information mailed to me, the calls from the pre-testing people making sure I remembered the appointment and completely understood the preparation routine; and, of course, when I arrived at endoscopy, the professionalism of the seven or so people who did their jobs so well.
When all was said and done and I was on my way home – albeit a bit foggy in the head – I was thinking about medical screening in general and Katie Couric, in particular, and how she turned the heartbreak of losing her husband into something extremely positive by raising awareness of colon cancer and the importance of colonoscopy screening.
The Bigger Picture
Okay, by now you’re looking up at the top of this page to see how in the world you landed on HealthCentral’s IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) page when you thought you had clicked on Stop Smoking/COPD. Well, my friend, stay with me because we’re getting to that right now.
Seeing all the effort that goes into a successfully completed colonoscopy screening, (which my primary care doc told me I should have because of my age), I couldn’t help but wonder how many lives could be saved and quality of life improved if even a fraction of this effort was put into pulmonary function screening for COPD. And for PF testing, both forms of it (Spirometry as well as Complete Pulmonary Function), you don’t have to miss a day of work, be on clear liquids and bowel cleansing for 24 hours, run to the bathroom all evening and through the night, have an intravenous line inserted, or require a highly trained staff of some seven health care professionals including a physician, an anesthesiologist, and the use of a surgical suite.
Saving lives and helping people live a lot healthier with a relatively inexpensive, non-invasive (nothing is put into your body), and easy-to-perform medical test. Hmmm…sounds like a no-brainer. Again, pulmonary function testing can be done in a hospital out-patient lab, a clinic, or a physician’s office by one specially trained technician or therapist. No change in diet, time off from work (most labs now have evening hours), IV’s, or anesthesia required! What a concept. Think about it. Why would your physician not do this screening for people who are at risk for lung disease? Could it have something to do with the fact that most (but not nearly all) COPD is caused by cigarette smoking?
Let’s take a minute to compare some disease facts for chronic lung disease and three big cancers. Now, before you say we’re comparing apples to oranges, chronic disease to cancer, let’s remember that cancer, as increasing treatable as it is, is now actually being considered a chronic disease. Bottom line – they are all major killers. We’ll start on a somber note and look at death rates, three cancer deaths for men and women, one lung-related, along with deaths from COPD.