I want to to provide some follow-up today to a previous (serious) post, and also answer a few questions. I know today's subject matter is an unusual topic for me to address, but I write about the experiences in my life, whatever they might be. If sharing those experiences helps to inform and/or educate other people I think it's worth taking the time and space to write about them.
** Before I start, I'd like to point out - I'm not in the medical profession. If you have questions/concerns you should talk to your doctor. **
Dr. Important called yesterday.
We played phone tag for awhile, and I admit my stomach clenched with anxiety every time my phone rang until we finally connected.
Here are the biopsy results on the four colon polyps he removed:
One was benign … that means it was as innocent as I am. (!!!!)
Three were pre-cancerous, but came back with "clear margins" meaning he removed them in their entirety, leaving no bad cells behind. (Which means, if I had not gone in for a colonoscopy they would have become cancer!)
Can you spell r-e-l-i-e-f?
I'm so GLAD I had the test done, and so GLAD a doctor with the expertise of Dr. Important was the one doing it.
As far as next steps ….
I will be having a super-sized follow-up procedure with a more specialized scope (and under general anesthesia) in six months. I will be checked frequently and vigilantly in the future. And because of those things, I should be FINE.
A few of you wrote in with questions, and because I think YOUR HEALTH is important, I'm going to answer your questions publicly.
• What symptoms did I have? Most of the time, polyps cause NO symptoms. I was experiencing a burning sensation under my rib cage. It was up high on my body and I initially thought it might be an ulcer. As it turns out, I'm a freak of nature and have an unusually long colon. It's all twisted up inside of me which is probably what was causing the sensation, not the actual polyps the doctor discovered.
• What is a polyp? A polyp is a growth. There are different types of polyps, and some are more likely to become cancerous than others.
• What causes polyps? There are a few different things that can cause polyps:
Genetics are a big factor. If anyone in your immediate family (mother, father, sisters, brothers) have had polyps, you are much more likely to get them also and should start being checked at age 40, or sooner if you have any changes/symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea for more than a week, and/or bleeding.
I didn't know prior to my test, but it turns out – my mother and brother have had polyps. No one had ever told me, so I thought there was no family history to be concerned with. I had also told Dr. Important I had no family history of colon cancer or polyps. We were both shocked when he discovered four polyps. Once he found out I DO have a family history, he was no longer at all surprised.
(Apparently no one in my family thought it ideal to discuss colonoscopies and polyps over dinner. They were WRONG. Knowing your family history could save your life.)
Your diet is also a huge determining factor.
Studies have found polyps are found at a more frequent rate in people who eat a lot of processed/chemically treated foods. (I don't, by the way.)
Additional studies have found polyps are more frequently discovered in people who have diets high in saturated fats. (I don't have a diet high in saturated fats either.)
I think most adults know, for good health in general, what foods are in the healthy vs. unhealthy categories.
And no, I don't want to argue the details folks.
We all can agree candy does not provide the nutrients an orange does. Ice cream vs. broccoli, etc.
Eating a healthy, balanced, diet is better than eating a crappy one.
Smoking/Alcohol – Studies have found people who smoke, and people who drink a lot of alcohol, are more likely to form colon polyps.
Lack of exercise – People who don't exercise regularly are more likely to form polyps.
Overweight – People who are overweight are more likely to form polyps. (And no, I haven't lost all of the weight I gained while on prednisone!)
• Is there anything I can do to cut down on my chances of forming polyps or having colon cancer? Yes, you can't control your genetics, but you can eat healthy, exercise, watch your weight, and moderate/decrease your smoking and/or drinking. Those are all things we're supposed to be doing anyway, right?
And yes, you can be doing everything "right" and STILL form polyps.
(Isn't life grand?!)
There are also some indications increasing your calcium intake may decrease polyp formation.
Lastly, I'd like to urge all of you to get over your colonoscopy fears (which I had too!) and follow your doctor's recommendations for preventative health care.
I cannot stress the importance enough.
© Twenty Four At Heart