My Friend the Colonoscopy

My Friend the Colonoscopy

Is it too late to discover if you’re going to die?

By Lindsay S

Lindsay S was the archetypical sixty five year old Australian male.  Like most males, he considered himself almost bullet proof, thought of himself as reasonably fit, and had no aches, pains or illnesses.  Some of his mates told him about having a colonoscopy and told him he should have one; others reckoned it was just a pain in the proverbial and not worth doing. Lindsay hadn’t had one and wasn’t about to do so. Here he tells us about his rude awakening.

Shortly after my sixty-fifth birthday as part of an Australian Government initiative I received a kit in the mail inviting me to provide samples for bowel cancer screening. Two samples of my finest was all it would take and they would be checked for the presence of blood. If all is well, that’s fantastic. If all’s not well you will be told what to do next. No cost to you, just do it. It seemed like a pretty good idea.    

So thinking this may ease my conscience about not having had a colonoscopy, I followed the instructions, very gingerly took my two samples and mailed them off. The results came back a few days later, one sample tested positive for blood, one did not.    The recommendation… talk to your doctor.  

Galvanised into action and worried about the consequences of my foolishness, I scurried off to see my GP.  He told me that ‘false positive’ results were not unusual and advised me to have a colonoscopy to be sure there was nothing sinister.  And so off I went for my first colonoscopy… at least it was not too late for a check-up.

The specialist got to the bottom of things and said, “Well your bowel is clear of polyps and abnormalities except for only one neoplastic rectal polyp. This is a 3.5cm oval pedunculated polypoid lesion, present on a broad base.     It was too big for it to be cut out during this examination.  However I have taken a sample for biopsy as it we need to check if it is cancerous.”

That’s medical talk for you’ve got a growth, it could be cancer, we are gunna check it out.

My immediate thought was, “Maybe it is too late. I’m probably gunna die!”

The results came back. “Sections, examined at levels, show portions of a sessile polyp with villous projections.  The epithelial covering is of large bowel type, with elongated hyperchromatic basal nuclei.  Tubules showing similar changes are present in the deeper portions of the mucosa.  Dysplastic changes are high grade (severe) with budding of the glandular pattern, goblet cell depletion, nuclear stratification, disordered nuclear polarity and nuclear hyperchromatism with chromatin clumping.”

That’s medical talk for we need to check it out further.

My immediate thought was, “I’m probably gunna die!” That was reinforced because I thought I overheard the specialist telling another patient, “Well it’s over 4cm in diameter so major surgery will be necessary.”

An appointment was made for colonoscopy number two.  

 “We cut away about 1/6th of the polyp of the first visit so we should be able to get the rest out today.”  

The day came and went. The colonoscopy was performed again with no pain or suffering.  The specialist advised, “We got out about half of the polyp.  Its like cutting down a tree, you have to start at the bottom and work down to the base.”    I noted his report stated that a large portion (probably 3cm in size) of my rectal polyp still remained.

The new biopsy results came back. Lots of long words… “A severe degradation but a supervening moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma cannot be excluded”.

My immediate thought was, “I’m probably gunna die!”

So off to colonoscopy number three. “We will see how we go, if we can’t get it all this time alternative surgery will be necessary”.        

Fortunately removal of the remaining 3cm was successful.  Interestingly the specialist’s report had now changed from ‘rectal polyp’ to ‘giant rectal polyp’.  The biopsy was again very descriptive and did note that there was no evidence of malignancy. 

So maybe it’s not too late. Maybe I’m not gunna die. 

To be more certain, a check-up, colonoscopy number four, is scheduled in four months time. 

I await the results of that to see whether my death is imminent.

My experience proves one thing all too clearly… feeling fit and being symptomless will not stop a polyp, the first sign of bowel cancer, from developing. 

Right now it appears that I may have had a lucky escape.   

Four months later colonoscopy number four, has detected no signs of a polyp. Colonoscopy numbers five and six have shown all is still clear. 

Here’s something for you to ponder… have you had your colonoscopy? Recently? Are you confident that it is not be too late?

(PS: Thanks to Winno for his review and editing) 

 

Contact: Lindsay S