Friday, March 15, 2024

Don’t Be a Dope, Get a Scope

When I turned 50 years old back in 2007, I received a very exciting birthday present: my very first colonoscopy. Before the procedure, I met with a doctor to discuss what would occur. When my face turned pale, he said, “Don’t be alarmed. By the time you need to do this again in 10 years, new technology will make the procedure non-invasive. It’ll be like an MRI. We’ll slide you into a big tube, take some scans, and you’ll be done.”

That information didn’t really comfort me at the moment, since I was about to undergo the epitome of an IN-vasive procedure. But I do remember him saying that to me.

Well, just the other day, I had my third colonoscopy, and it turned out the original doctor I met with could not have been more wrong. This procedure was just as invasive as the previous ones. Good thing general anesthesia is standard. So, 17 years since that first doctor told me modern technology would soon develop a reliable external method for determining whether a person has colon cancer, the fact is, they still are using the ol’ Kodak camera duct-taped to the end of a garden hose method.

No, I’m kidding. There definitely were no Kodak cameras, duct tape, or garden hoses present in the procedure room. There were, of course, mini cameras and some kind of hose or tube involved. I didn’t actually see the equipment — I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer to show it to me — but afterward I did see the photos of what was going on up, um, where the sun don’t shine. And I’m happy to report that nothing was going on, except for one tiny precancerous polyp.
The reason I’m even talking about this procedure — besides demonstrating that my sense of humor never progressed past the 6th grade level, especially regarding body parts that ought not be mentioned in polite society — is that I’m genuinely surprised modern medical research has not achieved what that first doctor was certain would be commonplace by now: an accurate, non-invasive method for examining one’s colon.

The advancements in modern medicine have been colossal during my lifetime. It seems every time you turn on the TV there’s another commercial where either Yale-New Haven or Hartford Healthcare are touting some miraculous new breakthrough. I think I saw one a while ago where a guy got hip replacement surgery on a Wednesday and then danced with his daughter at her wedding on Saturday. (I’m pretty sure he wasn’t break dancing, because if he had tried to break dance with his new hip, the word “break” would’ve been more than ironic.)

I wonder why my original doctor, back in 2007, was so certain a major advancement in gastroenterology would’ve occurred by now. I hope those brilliant medical equipment research scientists didn’t redirect their talents and skills to inventing something more flashy and lucrative, like video games or A.I. software. 
Before I conclude, I want to be serious for a moment — so pay attention, because seriousness only occurs in this column about once every eleventeen months. When your general practitioner doctor tells you it’s time to get a colonoscopy, your initial reaction might be one of three things: offer some 6th grade level wisecrack regarding body parts that ought not be mentioned in polite society; scrunch your nose and say, “Eww!”; or stick your fingers in your ears and repeatedly yell, “I can’t hear you!” Please, I’m begging you: make the appointment. The procedure is really not bad at all, and if they remove some polyps that were on the verge of turning into colon cancer, you will be absolutely thrilled. Trust me.

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