Wednesday 6 May 2015

I have seen my bowels - and they are beautiful. On bowel-scope screening and free drugs

A few months back I got an invitation.  Now, back in the day, I used to get invitations to swish openings, to fancy press events and smart hotels.  Now I get invites to bowel scope screenings. Welcome to middle age.
But seriously, I had no idea that the NHS was now screening people for the early signs of bowel cancer.  So I opened the leaflet and had a read.
Turns out that bowel cancer (colorectal cancer) is the third most common cancer in the UK with about one in eighteen people getting it in their lifetime.  Except, wait.  I've got two leaflets here and one (the NHS one) says it's the third most common, while the other (Cancer Research UK) states firmly that it's the fourth most common (after breast, lung and prostate).  Oh, come on guys, make up your minds!
One of those realistic conversations one has...
Anyhow.  I read on and thought, okay, why not?  I think people tend to fall into one of two camps - the 'I want to know' type and the 'I'd rather not know, thank you very much' type.  I'm a want-to-knower.  Also, as a health writer, I felt duty-bound to try it out and report.

So, I said yes.  And promptly forgot about it.  Until a small box turned up in the post.  For a moment I got excited (I do so love a parcel) until I realised that it wasn't a nice present but a home DIY enema kit.  Holy shit (to coin a phrase) - is there no getting away from having to shove things up my arse?

Anyhow, I did the enema, as instructed, and drove off to the hospital.  Now, maybe I hadn't read it all properly, maybe I was a bit cavalier about the whole malarkey, but I really did think I was going to pop in, lie down, have someone take a quick gander and that would be it - all done and dusted and out in ten minutes.  So I was somewhat puzzled when I was given a pile of forms to fill in and someone stuck a plastic wristband on me.  Next up, I had to put on one of those bloody awful hospital robes that ties up at the back.
'I've got all the ties, haven't I?' I said to the nurse who came to fetch me, marching merrily out into the busy corridor, trying to keep my dignity while wearing a billowing tent and socks.
She took a look and shook her head.  'Er, you might want me to just adjust that.'
Bare-arsed to the Endoscopy department of Musgrove Park Hospital?  Great.

We trip-trapped down the corridor to the procedure room and four faces looked round as I walked in. All smiling cheerily, suspiciously cheerily.  How many people does it take to do a bowel scope screening?  Five it appears.  Five nice jolly smiling people.
'Do you want Entonox?' said the nurse by my head (she got the best end).
'Entowot?' I said.
'Gas and air,' she said.  'Didn't you have it when you had babies?'
'Oh, right. Of course. Yes.'
'There you go.  So you know how to use it?'
'Hang on, it was sixteen years ago.  I was having a baby, for pity's sake.  I can't remember anything apart from Lowri Turner building a shed.'
She looked puzzled but decided against pursuing the topic, clasping the mask over my nose and telling me to breathe in deeply.
Hang about, why on earth do I need pain relief for a bit of bowel prodding?
'Deep breaths,' she said.  'Long deep breaths.'
'Like yoga, huh?' I said.
Mine was much prettier actually. 
'Oh, if you can do yoga, you'll probably be fine,' she said.  'To be honest, it's mainly the men who need it.'
Now why doesn't that surprise me?
Anyhow.  It was fine, totally fine.  At one point they pump some carbon dioxide inside to open up the bowel and that feels a bit...odd...but, truly, it's not painful.

'You're doing awfully well,' said Julie, the nurse practitioner who got the coal face, so to speak.  I resisted the urge to tell her that I was a dab hand at having things poked up my backside.  It might have spoiled the mood.  As it was, we had quite a jolly time, all told.  Nice bunch in endoscopy (no shit job jokes please).
'Your bowel is really clear, really clean,' said Julie.
Of course it is!  I mean, it bloody well should be, what with all those juices and Clysmatics.  So I copped a look and, she was right, my large intestines are really rather photogenic - all pink and perky. I wondered about asking for a snap (kinda like when you're pregnant and they do an ultrasound) but thought it might sound a bit odd.

'Nice stool there,' she added. Seems I not only have beautiful bowels, I also have perfect poop.  What an accomplishment.
She then announced she was taking out the carbon dioxide, which was a relief - sudden visions of floating off into the ether with an over-inflated bowel sprang to mind.  But then I got another vision of my bowel deflating like a sorry for itself party balloon and had to fight the urge not to laugh.

I got a nice mug of tea and a packet of biscuits and drove off, comforted in the knowledge that my bowels are tip top tickety poo.

Anyhow.  There you have it.  So, if you get invited to one of these things, you know what to expect.
While we're here, I reckon I should share the symptoms of bowel cancer.  These are from the NHS leaflet which, in the interests of 'plain English', has decided to infantalise its entire vocabulary which, given it's aimed at people 55 and over, is a trifle disconcerting - particularly because, in the writing of this post, I appear to have fallen into sync with it.
- blood in your 'poo' (poo?  really?)
- any changes in your bowel habits.
- an unexplained lump in your 'tummy' (see what I mean?)
- 'poo' that is looser than normal.
- unexplained tiredness or weight loss, and bloating, swelling or pain in your 'tummy'.
If you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks, the NHS suggests you see your GP - it doesn't necessarily mean you have bowel cancer but, if you do, the earlier it's found, the better the chances of successful treatment.

What do they suggest to lower the chances of getting bowel cancer?
- be physically active
- eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and other high fibre foods.
- eat less red meat and less processed meat (why eat meat at all, I ask?)
- cut down on alcohol - the more you cut down, the more you reduce  your risk.
- keep a healthy weight
- be a non-smoker.  If you smoke, it's never too late to stop.


Rachel Selby said...

Love the baby language. So if you're feeling icky you should see your doctor?

Anonymous said...

Pretty inviting photo. ;o)

Exmoorjane said...

@Rachel - yup, that's about the sum of it. :D

@Ma - RU win king @ my bow well? :D

Anonymous said...

Just loo king into your inner file. :o)

Exmoorjane said...

@Ma - there's nutting there. :)

Anonymous said...

Let arse breathe consciously... :o)

Anonymous said...

(Up) Yours

Go(o)d Knight

P.S. :o)