They say a woman should never tell her age. But age is critical to the timing of cancer screenings. I was 52 last year when I got my first colonoscopy, which, according to United States Preventive Services Task Force recommendations, should have happened at 50. The two-year delay is especially lame because I have worked in cancer prevention and early detection for 15 years and public health over 20, so I have spent a great deal of energy telling others what cancer screenings they need.
Like many others who put off colonoscopies, the prep (not the procedure) was driving my fear and avoidance. I had done it before for a surgery years ago, so it was a fear grounded in experience. And even knowing that the benefit of getting a colonoscopy outweighed the negatives associated with the prep, wasn’t enough to get me moving.
Why did I finally get my colonoscopy? It wasn’t one thing. Like so often with behavior change, it took a village, and a multi-level intervention:
· Peer pressure from my cancer control colleagues (looking at you Colleen Huard!)
· Reminders from my patient portal and my primary care doctor during visits
· My internal desire not to be hypocrite.
Now that I have my colonoscopy, I feel much better on many levels, too. Mostly, I am relieved to know the state of my colon. But I also feel better about walking the walk, not just talking the talk, which has made me a better cancer prevention and early detection advocate. And, by the way? The prep protocol has been updated and wasn’t as bad as last time.
Dr. Randi Kaufman
LCP Assistant Director
Assistant Professor, LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health