This is my first time posting here and it seems like you are a very caring and knowledgeable support community. I am 40 years old and for the last 3-4 months I have had various gastrointestinal symptoms: on-and-off constipation, discomfort/pain that is generally higher up under my rib cage and is sometimes on the right side, sometimes on the left and I get really full/bloated after eating and feel full really quickly nearly to the point of breathlessness. There is sometimes mucous in my stool, but no blood that I can see thus far.
I have seen my family Dr. 3 times and she is focusing on treating the constipation - she thinks I have a really "sluggish bowel". After my last visit she decided to send me for a barium enema (which is still one month away). My question: what exactly can they determine with a barium enema? If, God forbid, these symptoms are due to something like cancer, can they tell? My Dr. just doesn't think this is a serious problem. My Mom had polyps (but died of lung cancer - a long term smoker), my Dad's sister died in her early 50's of colon cancer, but my Dr. said that does not increase my risk enough to consider early colonoscopy.
I am not sure what they would find w/a barium enema. They only way to really know if it is colon cancer is through a colonoscopy. It would probably be wise to push for one. It is likely something benign, but colorectal cancer can be stopped/prevented through early screenings, so it is worth getting the colonoscopy if you ask me. (I am a 33 year old nearing the end of treatment myself...so it can happen to men, women, and at any age.)
I would also demand a colonoscopy. From what I hear of BE's they are an hour of severe "discomfort" as the medical establishment likes to say. My friend said never again. Why not a colonoscopy that you can sleep through? And they can attend to any polyps, etc, while they are there, plus getting pictures and being able to do biopsies. If they find something in the BE you will have to do a colonoscopy anyway--more money.
Four words - Shame on your doctor. If by chance they found something later on that could have been taken care of now with a colonoscopy, what's she gonna say? Oops? I had two barium enemas years ago in the early 80's when I was in my 20's and they were not that bad, but at that time that was pretty much what they did for testing any kind of bowel problem. Nowadays that test is considered outdated, and frankly I'm surprised your doctor even suggested it. The prep the day before is the same no matter what you have done, so having a barium enema instead of a colonoscopy is pretty silly, and the other poster is right - if they see something with the barium enema, you'll just have to have a colonoscopy anyway. I had a colonoscopy last summer and would not hesitate having another, and it was much easier than the other because I slept through the whole thing, went out to breakfast afterwards, and puttered in my garden the rest of the day. Much easier than the barium enema and pretty much conclusive as far as finding aything so no further tests were needed, which is likely to happen with you if you have the enema. And also, you might want to keep in mind that although the barium enema will see something 'obvious', it will not see a tiny polyp that could turn cancerous within the next 2-3 years.
As for your discomfort, to me it suggests a blockage of some kind because of the fullness you feel after eating. The discomfort high up under your rib cage suggests gas, as does a full feeling when eating. But usually with IBS, which can cause all your symptoms, this wouldn't be every single time you eat, only once in awhile when your body is producing too much gas, which is actually what causes the full feeling. And you would know it's gas because you'll pass it later on and feel better. Also, the full feeling you get with this gas when eating usually isn't as bad as yours suggests - most people can finish their meal but they simply feel fuller than they should. And as I said, this is just the excess gas their body is producing at that time and once it's passed, the symptoms go away. A symptom of a blockage is the sudden full feeling as soon as a person starts to eat, and this is because the food can't pass as it should. I think this is something you may want to get checked as soon as possible. I also think you need to find yourself a new doctor, a gastro doctor, who knows a little bit more about this part of the body than your doctor does. If you don't wish to do that, then the least you should do is cancel the barium enema and call her back and ask her - no, you tell her - you want a colonoscopy and don't feel comfortable having anything else. She also needs to be told that you don't base the need for a colonoscopy on a person's 'family'; you base it on the patient's symptoms. Again, shame on her.