I read somewhere that 30 percent of nurses of nurses are over the age of 50. So that means 30 percent of you should pick up the phone and schedule your colonoscopy in honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Nurses are notorious for helping others stay healthy and ignoring their own needs. Hey, we're too busy to worry about ourselves, right? But I would be remiss in my duty as an Oncology Certified Nurse if I did not encourage you to go out and have a simple screening performed that can SAVE YOUR LIFE.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second most common deadly cancer for men and women combined. Pretty scary, huh? But you know what's crazy? It's said to be 90 percent PREVENTABLE when precancerous colorectal polyps are identified and removed.
If you are over 50, it's recommended that you get a baseline colonoscopy. As a nurse, you should already know that they don't hurt. They give you some conscious sedation and some pain meds, and you won't remember a thing. My friends who've had them done will tell you that the worst part of the whole thing is the bowel prep, but one of them did mentioned that she caught up a lot on her reading during that bathroom time so it's not ALL bad. Then, if screening is normal, you won't have to have another one for 10 years! Not bad, huh?
We encourage our patients to have health screenings, and engage in preventive behaviors, but unless we practice what we preach, how can they take us seriously? I know several nurses personally who are colon cancer survivors, so nurses are not immune from developing such a disease.
The symptoms of colorectal cancer can vary and include things like abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, and blood in the stool. These symptoms can indicate a number of more benign conditions as well, so don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor if you have been experiencing such conditions. With any cancer, early detection leads to a better prognosis so the earlier you get checked out, the better.
It's like they tell you on the airplane safety lecture: be sure to attend to your own needs before helping others. To be at our best when our jobs get tough, we need to keep ourselves healthy in order to keep our patients healthy.
Happy Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!