Remember the importance of screenings

Published 9:22 am Friday, March 27, 2015

“I’ve always been impressed with your willingness to go to the doctor if you feel like something isn’t right,” I told my wife after her latest checkup. I’ve always been a wait-it-out kinda guy. Eventually whatever’s wrong will self correct, right?

That’s of course not true and a foolish mindset for me to embrace. I’m not afraid of the doctor finding anything wrong; in fact, that’s what I’m paying the doctor to do. I think I’m afraid of him or her pointing out what I already realize to be wrong. It’s one thing to think it in your head and a totally different thing to hear it out loud from an intelligent doctor.

My wife is the complete opposite. While I consult Dr. Google, she calls the clinic for a free phone consultation if anything seems a bit off. This normally leads to an appointment, which costs money, but when it comes to my wife’s health, I’m more than willing to write the check. Why am I not as eager to write the check for myself? It’s something to work on. With insurance waiting to be used, I might as well take advantage of what I’m paying for out of each paycheck.

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With March concluding, we recognize the end of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Knowing I wanted to write about colon cancer awareness, but not knowing how to write it, made me realize how hypocritical I was about going to the doctor. I’ve spent a decent portion of my adulthood advocating for people to get screened for the disease, but realizing now I’m imitating the behavior of those that are likely not to be screened.

To be clear, I don’t yet meet the recommended screening criteria, but I will one day, and I’ll need to be ready. Screening should start at age 50, and sooner if you have any symptoms or a family history. I’ll be screened around age 40, roughly 10 years prior to when my mom was first diagnosed.

Less than six in 10 adults in America within the recommended screening age are up-to-date on their screening. We shouldn’t have that many people putting their well-being at risk. As screening becomes more commonplace, rates of death have decreased remarkably. There’s a clear correlation between screening and incidents of death because screening often identifies precancerous polyps in the colon. These can be removed during a colonoscopy, which saves many lives before cancer even develops.

While many people simply have a fear of going to the doctor, most people avoid colon cancer screening because of the colonoscopy procedure or lack of insurance.

Thankfully, tons of research is being done to make colon cancer screening more friendly. There are other alternatives to the colonoscopy, but it is still the most widely recommended. Most people don’t even complain about the procedure itself, but rather find the prep work beforehand less than ideal. I think we can all go through a little “less than ideal” if it means prolonging your life. If it really sounds like a pain in the rear, consult your doctor about the alternatives.

Another plus is the Affordable Care Act should cover your colonoscopy. Verify it with your insurance, but millions gained coverage due to the mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Prior to the ACA being implemented, only 15 percent of people without insurance were being screened for the second leading cause of cancer death.

With one in 19 people likely to get colon cancer in their lifetime, I’m thankful screening is becoming more common. The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable has a goal of 80 percent of recommended people being screened by 2018. Will they make it? I’m not sure, but I know more and more people are getting involved. Screening for colon cancer needs to increase, and it comes down to encouraging your friends and family to have it done.

Have you talked to someone about it? It might seem odd, but it could literally be saving someone’s life. Superheroes don’t hesitate to save the day, and you shouldn’t either. Maybe it’s you that needs saving. Get screened for yourself, or if you’re like me and don’t like me and “don’t like writing the check for yourself,” get screened for your loved one. Your wife, son, father, friend, neighbor or co-worker. Screening saves, and you’re worth saving.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.