My Colonoscopy… And Dave Barry’s

By  |  August 20, 2008 | 

When I launched this blog, I vowed not to dwell on personal matters – you’ve heard nothing about my older son’s lab work (remarkable), my younger son’s cartooning (awesome), or my golf game (never mind). But I simply must tell you about my colonoscopy today.

Well, actually I won’t. But I wanted to raise the topic to implore you to do two things:

  1. Most importantly, if you’re due for one, go ahead and get it. It could save your life. Remember, the evidence supports a colonoscopy at age 50 if you are at average risk, and age 40 (or 10 years before the earliest age of diagnosis in a first degree relative with colon cancer) if you have a strong family history. Former White House press secretary Tony Snow, who died last month at age 53, should have begun screening in his late 20s, since his mother died of colon cancer at 38. Tragically, he did not.
  2. Secondly (not quite as important but much, much funnier), I hope you’ll read humorist Dave Barry’s recent column describing the experience of his own colonoscopy. Barry – one of the world’s wittiest people and clearly a member of the “Write What You Know” school – has a particular field day describing the colon cleansing process, which employs a product called “MoviPrep.” Here’s just a short quote from his column to, er, whet your appetite… but I really hope you read the whole thing – it is a riot:

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, ”a loose watery bowel movement may result.” This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

You might be pleased to know that my colon, like Dave Barry’s, passed with flying colors. As Barry said, “I’ve never been prouder of an internal organ.”

Get screened. Please.


  1. WRS August 22, 2008 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Glad to hear that everything comes out alright. Looks like your problems are behind you.

  2. delaneypa August 22, 2008 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Glad to hear you are taking care of yourself, too many physicians do not. However, annual Hemoccult cards are just as effective for screening colon cancer. When low-risk patients are given a choice, 90% of mine opt for doing the Hemoccult cards rather than a colonscopy.

    From USPSTF’s website:

    The USPSTF found good evidence that periodic fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) reduces mortality from colorectal cancer and fair evidence that sigmoidoscopy alone or in combination with FOBT reduces mortality. The USPSTF did not find direct evidence that screening colonoscopy is effective in reducing colorectal cancer mortality; efficacy of colonoscopy is supported by its integral role in trials of FOBT, extrapolation from sigmoidoscopy studies, limited case-control evidence, and the ability of colonoscopy to inspect the proximal colon. Double-contrast barium enema offers an alternative means of whole-bowel examination, but it is less sensitive than colonoscopy, and there is no direct evidence that it is effective in reducing mortality rates. The USPSTF found insufficient evidence that newer screening technologies (for example, computed tomographic colography) are effective in improving health outcomes.

  3. davisliumd August 28, 2008 at 4:15 am - Reply

    You look too young to need a colonoscopy! Loved the link to Dave Barry. Will reprint that article for my patients to read while they are waiting. One study found that only 14 percent of eligible patients had the combination of stool testing and sigmoidoscopy, while only 3 percent had a colonoscopy. As a primary care doctor who has been promoting colon cancer screening for years, trying to pitch the importance of these invasive tests are impossible. Although the American Cancer Society recently added virtual colonoscopy and stool DNA analysis (which requires shipping a whole bowel movement!), not sure the former is worth the radiation risk or if the latter is (ick) even less appealing than the conventional options.

    Glad you are well.

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About the Author:

Robert M. Wachter, MD is Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine. He is also Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine. He has published 250 articles and 6 books in the fields of quality, safety, and health policy. He coined the term hospitalist” in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article and is past-president of the Society of Hospital Medicine. He is generally considered the academic leader of the hospitalist movement, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine. He is also a national leader in the fields of patient safety and healthcare quality. He is editor of AHRQ WebM&M, a case-based patient safety journal on the Web, and AHRQ Patient Safety Network, the leading federal patient safety portal. Together, the sites receive nearly one million unique visits each year. He received one of the 2004 John M. Eisenberg Awards, the nation’s top honor in patient safety and quality. He has been selected as one of the 50 most influential physician-executives in the U.S. by Modern Healthcare magazine for the past eight years, the only academic physician to achieve this distinction; in 2015 he was #1 on the list. He is a former chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and has served on the healthcare advisory boards of several companies, including Google. His 2015 book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, was a New York Times science bestseller.


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