I know this sounds like I'm about to sell you something, but I'm not. I'm fulfilling a promise I made to myself a while ago when I first made an appointment to have a full colonoscopy.
My history: My uncle had died of colon cancer in 2001 while in his late 60's, and my father succumbed to lung cancer just last year (2004) at 71. My mother has a history of colon polyps; and I mean so much that her examiner calls her a "polyp factory".
I had started to notice that my stools were diminishing in diameter. No blood, no other symptoms. Sometimes flattened, sometimes pencil-thin. My diet is quite varied, healthy and rich in fiber; at 6'2" and 190lbs I am in good physical shape. I am 46 years old.
I was shocked that when I went to my family doctor with my concerns and she told me to go straight for a full colonoscopy. She did not recommend - as I expected - a first-line fecal blood exam or sigmoidoscope. She did not offer much in terms of comfort on what else it could be but colon cancer. Given my family history I now had reason to be worried and I made my appointment immediately. That was nearly a month ago.
I was depressed, and searching on the internet only depressed me more. If you do any sort of a search on "thin" or "flat" stools they point you straight to "colon cancer". The search terms "flat/thin" lead straight to calamity.
If you are reading this, you may have the same symptoms, and unless you are a complete **** have already decided to make an appointment to get yourself checked out PROPERLY. If you have made this decision, then good for you. You may also be scared out of your mind. Don't be.
If you HAVEN'T made this decision, then continue to worry and be uncertain.
So here's what you probably want to know: I just came back from my colonoscopy and I sailed through it with flying colours. It was fast, did not require any sedation. I would rate the discomfort equivalent to a short bout of diarrhea. There was a flash of pain as the doctor went for "the last corner before the finish line" - however that last little sore spot was worth it because I got a FULL colonoscopy and a full proper view of EVERYTHING.
Next to me in the wiating area was a 52 year old guy who was coming for a follow-up exam three years after his cancer surgery. Judging by his slim, healthy appearance I would say that he had a succesful surgery; and judging by his tight jeans, I would guess that he did NOT have a colostomy bag. He would have been 49 for his surgery - three years older than me. I do not know whether the surgery was to remove a benign polyp or a pre-cancerous one, or a malignancy.
So here's what I have to tell you from my experience. If you have reason to be concerned, act on it. If your profile is somewhat like mine you probably have nothing dangerous - but to ignore it is stupid.
Onc again, if you've made the appointment, relax. If you haven't made the appointment, then continue to be scared and uncertain until you DO make an appointment. Then you can relax.
In my case, it turned out to be nothing; I'm fine. Chances are you are fine too. Stop being scared - just take comfort that you are NOT doing something stupid and dangerous like ignoring a possible early warning sign.
By the way, the night before my examination (and as a tribute to my recently-deceased dad who always wanted me to have a kid) I decided to go to the "foster parent's plan" web site (http://www.fosterparentsplan.ca/
) and "adopt" a little girl in Bangladesh; I asked for the girl who had been on the waiting list the longest. ("Adoption" means a continuous $30-$40/month sponsorship donation for the child)
I would say that given the results today this little girl (whoever she is) is now my guardian angel. In case you could use your own, real, live guardian angel, you might want to try the same thing. It seemed to work for me.