I heard a story about actors Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Tom Hanks forming a colonoscopy slumber party of sorts. They get together at one of their homes the day of the bowel prep and bring in a caterer to make them broth and gelatin, play poker all night, and the next day they have their colonoscopies. Personally, I would just grab a few cans of Campbell’s and some Jell-O from the grocery store and call it a day, but they are celebrities after all, so it’s catered consommé for them. Short reported that they do this “every three to four years” to encourage each other to get this colorectal cancer screening test done and make something many do not look forward to, well fun.
I’m not sure why they are having colonoscopies every four years. If they are screening colonoscopies, the recommendation is to have the first one at age 50 and every ten years thereafter, as long as it’s normal. Of course, it is important to speak to your doctor because when and how often to have a colonoscopy, or any cancer screening test for that matter, is largely dependent upon family history and other risk factors, such polyps in the colon.
Anyway, it made me think that maybe the buddy system might be one solution to improving low cancer screening participation. Experts say it works with weight loss and fitness. Those who have a workout partner are more successful at sticking with their diet and exercise routines. Maybe it could work for cancer screening too!
Now, I for one really do not want to do the whole colonoscopy prep thing with a group of friends, but that’s not the only way to employ the buddy system. It could be as simple as calling your family and friends on their 50th birthdays and saying, “Happy birthday. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy.” Maybe friends can make an agreement to nudge each other about cancer screening. Maybe Short, Martin, and Hanks are on to something. If we add a perk that makes something we don’t like to do a little more tolerable, we might be more likely to do it. So ladies, let’s think about getting our best girlfriends together for a day of mammograms or Pap tests followed by lunch and shoe shopping. Guys, how about prostate exams followed by a round of golf?
I’ll admit cancer-screening tests are not fun, but let’s remind ourselves that cancer is even less fun. When we talk about a cure, prevention should be number one on the list. On a positive note, our investigators are making great progress in developing simple and easy cancer screening tests we expect will one day eliminate the need for many of these unpleasant and invasive screening tests. Until that day, it is important to remember that most cancers can be prevented and cured if they are detected early. Talk to your doctor about cancer screening and start thinking about who you want to be in your colonoscopy club, your prostate party, your mammography merrymaking. Well, you get the idea.
For information from Johns Hopkins on cancer screening:
The Johns Hopkins Colon Cancer Screening Clinic, 410-502-0793
Prostate Cancer Screening and Detection and The Johns Hopkins Brady Urological Institute, 410-955-6100
Johns Hopkins Breast Center screening mammography, 410-955-4100
The Johns Hopkins Breast Evaluation Program for women at high risk of developing breast cancer, 443-287-BRST (2778)
The Johns Hopkins Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service (BOSS), 410-502-7082
The Johns Hopkins Center for Cervical Dysplasia, Colposcopy/Pap Test, 410-955-6700
Years ago a gastroenterologist with whom I worked in a medical facilty invited me to come see him when I turned 50 to have a colonoscopy. As I shared this with colleagues who celebrated various birthdays, I suggested we all get together at the good doctor's house for a pool party the night before our scheduled colonoscopies, where some form of Golyetly would be the drink of choice. I was trying to be hopeful and helpful.