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Colonoscopies for Early Detection and Screening

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
03/12/24  11:00 AM PST
colonoscopy for early detection and screening

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which aims to highlight the importance of early detection and screening starting at the age 45. Although colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the US, it is one of the few cancers that is preventable with screening.

I had my first colonoscopy at 39… one in part due to a nasty parasite, later detected, and two because of chronic suppository use. I have been suppository dependent since 1999 with every-other-day use. After a fun week in Mexico, I came home feeling a bit off… Was it the mezcal? The hot sun? Too many big meals? I chalked it up to my body needing a reset – more water, more sleep, and more plain food. However, a week or more into being home, the pain and bloating did not dissipate. I was fearful of leaving the house since I was experiencing bowel leakage which was not common with my suppository use.

My internal medicine doctor ordered for a colonoscopy to really see what was going on with my guts. I knew of the dreaded prep for a colonoscopy and worried I would experience autonomic dysreflexia. How would I get on or off the toilet? What if there was an emergency? My wife could only do so much! My doctor worked hard on my behalf and got me an overnight hospital stay to do my prep with the help of the nursing staff, and my colonoscopy was scheduled in the operating room the following morning.

Prep went extremely well, and since I had been experiencing stomach and bowel issues for a week or so prior, there was not much that needed to be cleared out. So, pro tip – start eating cleaner, blander meals and foods about a week prior to a scheduled colonoscopy!

Long story short, the colonoscopy found puckering in my colon from chronic suppository use which will need to be monitored regularly. Thankfully, no colorectal cancer! And it was determined that I had contracted a nasty parasite during my travels and needed a high dose of medication. After another week of rest and medication, I was able to keep food down and no longer experiencing leaky bowels, bloating or pain.  In the end, the colonoscopy was not to be feared, but looked at as my saving grace to find out the issue!

As for others who are not experiencing a parasite problem, it is important to look out for these signs and contact your doctor if experiencing any of them:

  • Change In Bowels: diarrhea, constipation, or feeling like your not emptying completely
  • Constant Abdominal Pain: discomfort, nausea, cramping, or bloating
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Low Red Blood Cell Count

I also know that a lot of these symptoms are standard for individuals living with a spinal cord injury, however use your judgement when you notice an increase or decrease in something without any other explanation. It’s never wrong to ask for additional screenings or to advocate for yourself!

And remember, always listen to your gut.

Best in Health,

Aaron

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