Colon Cancer’s ‘Ick’ Factor…

Trigger Alert: Some of the following paragraphs contain Facts. And these facts are related to Science. An alarming number of Americans find these concepts offensive…or irrelevant…or…something..? Please skip this if you are one of them. 

The passing of actor Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer was a surprise.  Hard to believe that the guy playing a superhero like the Black Panther one day can be gone the next.

There are reasons for wanting to keep a cancer diagnosis private, including the desire to keep working if you have just broken a huge Hollywood barrier.  But with Colorectal cancer, the ‘Ick’ factor may come into play as well.  

Let’s face it: People are understandably less-comfortable talking about that part of their body and that can result in them ignoring symptoms and delaying their first colonoscopy.  

While the guidelines are under review, the CDC recommends people of average risk have a colonoscopy at age 50 and those with an elevated risk such as a family history at age 45. If you have a strong family history of colorectal cancer or other bowel disease - or specific symptoms - speak with your doctor about having a colonoscopy even earlier.

About 270,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and 47,000 will die.  Far fewer people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, 146,000, but 10% more - 51,000 - will die from the disease.  So the fatality rate from colorectal cancer is twice as high as breast cancer.

Some of that difference may be due to a greater likliehood of delaying a colonoscopy vs. a mamogram.  I’ve never had a mammogram (did you know that 1% of breast cancer patients are men?) but I’m sure it is not pleasant.  However, given the nature of a colonoscopy - and the famous ‘night before prep’, it’s understandable that it may be the medical chore that is easy to push until next year.  Resist that temptation.

So here are the takeaways:

  • While it may get less attention, colorectal cancer kills more people than breast cancer. Take it seriously.
  • Don’t die of embarrassment.  If you have symptoms, speak with your doctor.
  • When you hit the the recommended testing age, schedule your colonoscopy. it the week before...and insist on a second birthday dinner as a reward!
  • Get the real test - the colonoscopy - not the ‘test in a box’. Ask your doctor…she/he can tell you why.
  • The prep and and procedure are not nearly as bad as you imagine. I’ve had a number of them and learned to enjoy a pleasant 30-minute morning nap and then out for pancakes with Carol :)

Think how good you will feel after taking this off your to-do list!


  1. Very well said ... I hope people hear what you are saying ... and my new slogan "Pay Attention to Your Sh.t! it's a very normal part of life ... and very telling about your health!!

  2. Agreed. I, too, found that colonoscopy prep is really only a couple hours of ick. And yes, I began to actually look forward to the nap and celebratory eating out after the procedure.

    I had my colon removed a couple months ago (51 years old, ulcerative colitis), so while I don't have to have another colonoscopy ever, I still need to be scoped yearly for anal/rectal cancer.

    If I'd have kept my colon, you better believe I'd be prepping every year for that colonoscopy, though. So little effort for such an important check.

    I wish our culture talked about it more. It might help normalize testing and talking about it.


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