On choosing ease over efficacy.
If you’re a longtime CNN viewer then certainly you’ve seen the commercials for those at-home tests for colon cancer.
I mention CNN because that network is notorious, in my warped mind, anyway, for airing commercials that make the viewer want to hide under the covers.
You know what I’m talking about. Big Pharma productions for every condition and disease known to man. With the type of disclaimers that make the disease itself a cakewalk in comparison.
“Don’t take if you’re allergic to Skyrizi.”
Who needs to be told this?
One of my favorites is a new drug for Eczema. I don’t remember the ridiculous-sounding name but I do recall the disclaimer at the end of the spot where the cheery-voiced narrator cautions, “Common side effects include swelling of the nose and/or throat.”
Alright! Down the hatch!
So, I’m guessing, you’ve seen the ads featuring grinning idiots gripping their just-delivered, poop-in-the-box testing kits for the detection of colorectal cancer.
“Poop in the Box.” Kind of brings to mind the old fast-food chain, doesn’t it? In fact, I foresee a drive-through where conscientious folks can make a deposit and be on their merry way.
The most popular of these kits is Cologuard®, a stool DNA test. There are others, like MyLab Box™ and LetsGetChecked®, but CG seems to be the gold standard. In other words, it’s the sh!t.
I’ve never paid much attention to these commercials other than to laugh at them because they so clearly play on the fears that many people share about the dreaded procedure known as a colonoscopy.
The very name makes our sphincter tighten up, doesn’t it? But the thing is people, they’re not so bad, and they save lives.
I never realized how prevalent colon cancer is in our society until reading the following from gastroconsa.com.
Colon cancer claims over 50,000 lives every year and is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in the US.
Wow. Cancer, you devil. Where do you NOT strike?
On the positive side, colon cancer is preventable and moreover, treatable, if it’s detected early.
Here’s why I’m writing this. My husband’s internist prescribed Cologuard last year. When the kit arrived, my husband was gobsmacked at how complicated the procedure was. I won’t detail all the particulars but his first attempt…ahem…crapped out. So, he was sent a fresh new box in which to evacuate and ship back to whoever the heck looks at poop all day.
The other morning, I was in our basement working on a story and he called me upstairs.
He was holding some paperwork with the ominous message that his Cologuard test came back “positive.”
Immediately, my body reacted. I felt a chill go through me and I reached for the letter, which was basically, a lot of clinical gobbledygook.
My husband, as usual, was stoic. We discussed the fact that he hasn’t had any symptoms, such as blood in the stool or stomach pain, so we were able to calm down. A bit.
While he went off to call his doctor, I searched online for whatever I could find about Cologuard. For one thing, the test has at least a 13% rate of “false positive” outcomes. A percentage that goes up, the older the individual is. In fact, gastroconsa.com raises the stakes even further, saying that nearly 66% of Cologuard’s test results are false-positive. That disparity, in and of itself, gives us pause for thought, wouldn’t you agree?
To clarify, a false-positive test is when the result says you may have large polyps or cancer when you really don’t. Now here’s the rub: The only way to know for sure is by having a — you guessed it — colonoscopy.
Polyps are small clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon and are very common. Now, large polyps can be a precursor to colon cancer, which Cologuard et al, do not detect. So why bother taking these at-home tests, in the first place?
Money, baby. What else? My feeling is that doctors are getting kickbacks for prescribing these tests, as with so many of the pharmaceuticals they dispense like gumdrops. And they don’t take much selling as far too many people will do whatever they can to avoid having a colonoscopy. So the medical community is preying on our fears to what could be disastrous results.
I have freely shared in the past that when it comes to medical procedures, I am a world-class coward. But, I’ve had a colonoscopy and I can tell you, a root canal is more uncomfortable. In fact, there is no discomfort at all with a colonoscopy.
I know. “It’s the prep work.” Friends, even that isn’t so bad. Sure, we have to guzzle gallons of whatever brew is prescribed to “clean us out,” but hell, look at it as a detox. And backed-up fecal matter can cause the numbers on the scale to go up, so consider the prep as a kind of fast that will enable us to drop a couple of pounds.
And, the procedure itself? A thirty-minute power nap. As soon as I felt that needle prick, I was out like a light.
But, most importantly, the polyps found in my colon were removed on the spot. I was given some juice, cookies, and a commemorative picture of my colon to take with me. As well as the directive to “come back in ten years.”
Here's another factor to consider: Some insurance providers won’t cover a colonoscopy if the at-home screening test has already been covered. Talk about taking it up the butt.
By now, you’ve probably surmised that I am cautioning against taking a stool DNA test. I know. What the heck do I know? I get it. But this is what I have learned: My husband needed a colonoscopy to follow up on his positive test results.
So he went through the procedure and thankfully everything turned out well. He had some polyps removed, drank his juice, ate his cookies and I took him home.
If my husband’s internist had recommended going straight for the colonoscopy, instead of telling him to poop in the box, we might have avoided all that worry
What a sham.
As always, thanks for reading.
© Sherry McGuinn, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. She is currently pitching her newest screenplay, “The Month We Fell Apart,” a drama with dark, comedic overtones inspired by a true story, as well as “DEAD TIRED,” a female-driven, erotic thriller.