Jump Start Your New Year with Plans for a Colonoscopy

Happy New Year! If you’re like me, you’re hoping 2021 is WAY better than 2020, and you’ve made a few resolutions. Every year I vow to lead a healthier lifestyle. Even though I am married to Dinner Table Doctor, I am a pretty noncompliant patient at times. For example, I was supposed to get my cholesterol and blood sugar checked over a year ago, and have yet to do it! Every month I put it off, swearing that I just need to eat healthy and exercise for several weeks before I go for bloodwork, but then I don’t follow through. Well, new year and new hope and I have already made and changed my appointment to a later date! But it’s on the books anyway.

DTD and I were discussing this on New Year’s Eve as we were appropriately eating junk food. As you know from past posts, he is absolutely fine with indulging a little on holidays, barring any major health issues. Our New Year’s Eve celebration has been a laid back affair since long before the pandemic. Several years ago I came to the realization that New Year celebrations are overrated and I much prefer being at home with my family eating a very casual meal and just hanging out watching movies while relaxing by a fire. This year we were craving nostalgia and made an old favorite to munch on – the ubiquitous 7 layer nacho dip, which we fondly call “dippy dip.” Not surprisingly, chowing down on beans and dairy led the conversation to fiber and lactose intolerance and bowel issues, and finally to when we are due for a colonoscopy. Dinners with DTD sure are fun!

I am only 52 years old, but have experienced a colonoscopy in my early 40’s due to symptoms of anemia. Typically colon cancer screening is recommended for all patients at age 45. You read that right – the former recommended age of 50 has been lowered to 45. Yet another wonderful thing that happened in 2020! This new guideline covers patients at average risk for colon cancer. Obviously if you have a higher risk due to family history, for example, then you might have to have the test at an earlier age.

Colon cancer screening can save your life. Colon cancer usually develops from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, which is why screening is so important. When polyps are found early, they can be removed before they are cancerous. A colonoscopy is the most widely known test, but there are other options:

  • A stool DNA test, where a sample of your stool is examined for changes in DNA that might lead to cancer and is checked for the presence of blood.
  • A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) which check for blood present in the stool.
  • A virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) where you have a CT scan of your abdominal organs to check for abnormalities.

When I had my colonoscopy, the worst part by far was the prep the day before. I couldn’t eat any solid food for an entire day and could only drink clear liquids. For someone whose life revolves around food and meal planning, it was a huge challenge. Plus, the object of the prep is to clear your colon out, so that’s not a picnic or a walk in the park or anything remotely pleasant that you can imagine. Sadly, I did not have my bidet at the time. The actual colonoscopy, however, was no big deal for me. As you know, I love any type of anesthesia so that was a plus, and since I was out of it, there was no cause for embarrassment. Believe me, if I can do it, so can you! I repeat, it could save your life!

If you would like to compare the pros and cons of the various colon cancer screening options, the Mayo Clinic has a great summary you can check out here, plus you should see your doctor and discuss your particular situation and concerns as well. Colon cancer screening is a crucial part of routine health care, so make it a new year’s resolution to have this conversation with your doctor.

If you want a jump start in clearing out that colon, try the dippy dip! It is a much more pleasant way to get those bowels moving. Unfortunately dippy dip is NOT an approved prep method for a colonoscopy, but hey, it’s a start. It will definitely get you thinking about the health of your bowels. There are MANY recipes for the 7 layer nacho dip on the internet, but I’m gifting you with one from my childhood friend. You can see at the end of the recipe she writes a note, which is not only sage advice, but also perfectly highlights her fabulous sense of humor and why we have remained good friends since the fourth grade. On New Year’s Eve we paired this with champagne, of course, and it was perfect. Enjoy!

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