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Colon Cancer Awareness Month

By: Frank Ranicky
By: Frank Ranicky

You may remember a few years ago, TV personality Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy on camera soon after her husband died of colon cancer. It was her way of raising awareness and trying to spare anyone else the pain her family endured. In that same spirit, the American Cancer Society approached me and asked me to do the same, so at age 55 I went for my first colonoscopy at Tallahassee Memorial, and our cameras followed.

"This is a piece of cake, man, you know, piece of cake. I'm going to come out of this fine. I don't feel nervous, but I guess I must be because my blood pressure is up a little bit,” said Frank.

After a day of fasting and two rounds of laxatives, I am being wheeled down the hall at Tallahassee Memorial for a procedure that makes most men and women wince, and I am doing it at the request of the American Cancer Society.

"I felt like it was a calling for not only me, but for others to go ahead and get it done and don't worry about it. It is something that has to be done, so lose your fear and get it done and move on,” says Frank.

Dr. James Stockwell has done thousands of colonoscopies. He's been probing for polyps for 29 years. While I am somewhat sedated he uses a special camera, which he guides five feet into the colon in search of any signs of trouble.

"We're looking for polyps which are benign growths, some of which can turn into cancer," says Dr. Stockwell.

If found early enough, the polyps can be removed without incident, and if a tumor is found early enough people have a 90 percent chance of survival.

About three-quarters of the way through this exam, Dr. Stockwell finds something.

"He had a teeny elevated area down low, probably the size of a pin head, probably not even a true polyp, but we went ahead and took it out of there anyway," Dr. Stockwell said.

The entire procedure lasted about 25 minutes. Except for that small polyp, the doctor says everything looks good and I won't have to do this again for 5 years.

We want to mention too that a colonoscopy costs about $2,000. Most insurance companies and Medicare do cover the procedure, and there is some help available if you can't afford it. Talk to your doctor.


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