They sent me a letter on my birthday with a pretty brochure about early detection. They use the hemoccult (fecal occult blood) test for most people these days. I was instructed to see my doctor and get the required prescription for the test kit. But for me it's not that easy. I recently learned that my grandfather died from colon cancer when I was very young. I remember that he died, but never really knew why -- I grew up thinking it was from lung cancer. But my family confirmed it for me in November after I mentioned that it was time for "the test."
At this news my doctor said that I should skip the hemoccult and proceed directly to coloscopie (colonoscopy). People with family histories of colon cancer should get the full visual inspection. That way, polyps can be detected earlier than they might be with the less "invasive" test. So he wrote me a referral to a gastro-entérologue and I saw him on Monday. Our consultation was brief; he asked me some questions about my general health and history, what medications I took, and he did some feeling around of my abdomen (looking for tumors I suppose). Then he described the procedure and scheduled it.
Next, I had to make an appointment with an anesthésiste since the procedure is done under general anesthetic. I'll be going up to Blois next Tuesday for that. She (I think it's a she) will talk to me about the anesthesia and get any information she needs to have prior to the actual colonoscopy. Also, I have to have a blood test. I guess they need to know what my blood type is and what the clotting rate is and other things like that.
The gastro is going to be sending a packet of materials for me to read along with prescriptions for the blood test and the stuff I'll need to prepare my insides for inspection: the dreaded liquid purging drinks!
The actual coloscopie is scheduled for the afternoon of March 4. Since I'll be under anesthesia during the test, I will not be tempted to live-blog it. You are relieved, I can tell.
Except for my co-pay for the doctors' fees and the blood test and the prep materials, which is minimal, the actual procedure is covered 100% by the national health service. They believe that early detection and treatment is not only good from a humane standpoint, but also much more cost-effective than treating people after they have become seriously ill. I'm all for that.
If this weren't such a serious thing, and not just a little bit scary, it would be an adventure. After all, I'm having to do all of this in French. I'm learning all kinds of new vocabulary.
Above you can see the cover of the brochure the health service sent about early detection of colon cancer. The words on the cover are in the form of a little poem. It even rhymes. It says:
In most cases,
Is not a pain in the ass!
Is not a pain in the ass!
Okay, I made the last part up. Méchant means "dangerous" in this case, but I couldn't resist.