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If you have been avoiding a medical test, because you are afraid of getting bad results, this blog is for you. If you think the BTD will protect you from medical problems and you don’t need medical tests, this blog is for you, too.
Those who have been reading my blog since the beginning, may remember that I had a horrible experience with a colonoscopy six years ago. You can look through the archives if you want to know all the gory details, but to quickly summarize, the doctor removed what he thought was a polyp, but it turned out to be “something vascular.” I wound up back in the hospital for tortuous tests to make sure he had not perforated my colon. That was followed by two weeks on three antibiotics all of which cause nausea and diarrhea. It was a month before my digestive tract was healed.
Afterwards the doctor told me I would need another colonoscopy in 5 years. I laughed derisively at him. At that moment I thought I would do anything rather than subject myself to another colonoscopy. I still felt that way when the 5 years were up. My primary care doctor was sympathetic, and did a non invasive test to make sure there was nothing critical going on inside me.
There are colon issues in my family. My grandmother died from colon cancer when she was 79. My mother had a large precancerous polyp removed when she was 85. In addition, I knew two people with colon cancer this year. One died. The other is having success with radiation and chemo therapy. I had to face reality and be responsible.
I had a colonoscopy yesterday morning. I recovered quickly, and today I am feeling 90% normal. Getting the colonoscopy was the right thing to do. The doctor found and removed two polyps. Both were small and looked harmless. I won’t know for two weeks whether they are the truly benign type or the type that can become cancerous. But whatever the results of the pathology, I was wrong to think that I could avoid this medical test.
I know people who avoid going to the dentist, having a mammogram, getting a prostate screen, checking their cholesterol, etc. because they are afraid of the results. This does not make any sense at all. Get the test. If there is a problem, get treatment early.
I wanted to avoid this test because the previous test had been such a horrible experience. Statistically, I knew that the problems I had the first time were very rare, and were highly unlikely to happen again. Still I was afraid. I had to say to myself – “get over it!”
There was also the temptation to say, “I follow a health building diet. I eat all the right food. I exercise. I’m immune to bad things like polyps or cancer.” While I credit the BTD, healthy eating, and exercise with my having more energy and fewer health complaints than most people my age, I am not invincible. Genetics certainly plays a role. Plus in this fallen world, body parts inevitably wear out. How foolish to be responsible about eating right but irresponsible about screening tests!
I want to share some things that made this colonoscopy better than the previous one, but today’s blog is long enough. I’ll post Part II this weekend. There will also probably be a Part III about what the doctor recommends for polyp prevention.
I'm planning to not get mammograms- not because I'm afraid of the result, but because I've done research on the risks and benefits of that particular test, and came to the conclusion that the risks (of potentially causing cancer by radiating sensitive breast tissue, as well as the risk of false positives) don't outweigh the benefits (of possibly finding cancer a little bit earlier than a self-exam would.)
I do my regular breast exams, and wouldn't hesitate to see my GYN (or one of the male doctors on staff if it meant getting seen sooner) if I found something suspicous. I go to my PCP once a year and get full labwork done. I get my vitamin D levels checked more often. I see my GYN once a year for my PAP smear. I see my dentist for checkups twice a year.
We all need to take control of our own health. That includes doing a risk/benefit analysis of any test or treatment the doctor reccomends. Sometimes we'll decide to not do what the doctor wants- which is different from "not taking care of yourself."
That said, even though I didn't want the radiation of that nuclear stress test, I was convinced by the doctors that I needed it, so I got it. I think there needs to be a balance between the danger of the test versus the danger of NOT getting the test, and only the individual and her or his docs can weigh all that, based on the specific situation.
I definitely agree that we shouldn't avoid tests due to fear of the results. But sometimes a good healthy fear of the risks of the test itself outweigh the potential benefits, and like I just said, only the patient--armed with knowledge of the specific situation and the best advice of the doctors, can ultimately make that decision.
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