At age 55, Dale Dwire is no stranger to colonoscopies.
He’s already had eight of them. During his last screening, his doctor found and removed eight polyps.
In fact, doctors have found and removed polyps during all of his colonoscopy screenings beginning at age 35. That’s when his doctor recommended he start getting the procedure due to a strong family history of colon cancer.
“My family doctor told me when I was 35 I should start looking, and I had polyps,” he said. “There is no doubt I would have full-blown cancer by now without colonoscopy screenings.”
Dale’s concern stems from his father, Robert, and grandfather, Roy, who both died of colon cancer. His father found out after he started having complications with his bowels in his early 50s and died at age 59. His grandfather died in his 80s.
While colon cancer is fairly common – one in 20 people will be diagnosed within their lifetime – it’s also highly preventable through regular screenings. Colonoscopy allows the physician to immediately remove polyps that could develop into cancer.
Know Your Risk
You may be at risk for colon cancer if you:
• Have a family history of precancerous colon polyps or colon cancer
• Are age 50 or older (age 45 or older if African-American)
• Are overweight
• Have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis (IBD)
Dale, who farms in the Ivanhoe, Minn., area, ran the family farm with his father before he died. His grandfather also was a farmer. Losing these two men to cancer helped Dale realize that a colonoscopy every few years was the least of his worries.
“Colonoscopy is something that people laugh about and make fun of,” he said. “But I’d rather catch it early before it develops into cancer than catch it too late. Both my father and grandfather found it too late and had colostomy bags.”
It’s a Non-Event
Dale counts himself lucky that screenings every two years have caught any pre-cancerous polyps before they were able to develop. When his four sons reach 35, they’ll also start getting regular colonoscopies. His two sisters and uncles also have them regularly, though they haven’t had as many polyps.
Many people avoid the screening due to fear of embarrassment, pain during the procedure and the cleansing that must occur beforehand.
At this point, Dale considers his colonoscopies a non-event and said the process has changed to make it much more comfortable.
“The first one I did, I didn’t have anesthesia and it was not fun,” he said. “Now, the process is nothing. Drinking the liquid is the hardest part and that’s very doable. The preps are getting better. Each time I do it, it seems like there’s a new one.”