“ It’s not exactly dinner table conversation, if you know what I mean…”
Those are just a few of the statements I hear when I ask Memphians why our community doesn’t talk about getting a colonoscopy. The truth is this: a colonoscopy isn’t gross. It isn’t embarrassing. It’s discreet, simple, and life-saving.
For twenty years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work at the grassroots level to educate our city about the importance of a colorectal screening. I’ve personally given over 200 speeches. My small practice has provided colon cancer education at over 1,000 events. I’ve partnered with the Memphis Grizzlies’ Community Health team, local political leaders, dozens of churches and businesses, and countless community leaders. I’ve even released an Emmy-nominated commercial to spread our message.
When I go to the grocery store or jog through the park, local Memphians confirm that they’ve heard my messages. They recite the statistics, applaud Mid-South Gastro’s efforts, and even thank me for my commitment. Many even go on to tell personal stories of family members who didn’t get screened until it was too late. Then I ask one question.
Have you been screened?
It’s at that point that the mood shifts.
“I’m going to, Doc. I’m scared. I’m going to get mine next year.”
It’s heart wrenching. Ninety percent of colon cancer can be prevented. African Americans are most likely to die from colon cancer because we’re most likely to receive a late-stage diagnosis. My community knows this. You all tell me these stats on your own. Yet, year after year, so many members of our city put off protecting their health.
That’s why this year, I changed March’s “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” to “Colorectal Cancer ACTION Year.” I don’t want to see any more Memphians die from colorectal cancer. Not one. I don’t want to meet another neighbor in the grocery store who claims to know the seriousness of colon cancer while doing nothing to prevent it.
My fellow physicians, staff, and even our Mayor AC Wharton Jr. have joined Mid-South Gastroenterology Group’s grassroots campaign to not only educate Memphians about the risks of not knowing but also encourage you to take the first step and schedule an appointment.
If you’re over 50 years old and of average risk, there’s no reason for you to not have your colonoscopy. If you’re an African American, you’re more susceptible to an aggressive form of colorectal cancer; you must be screened by age 45. If you have close family members who have been diagnosed with colon cancer, you will have to be screened even earlier.
This isn’t the time to read about colon cancer, shudder at the statistics, and then do nothing. This is the time to accept responsibility and take action.
If you or someone you know needs to be screened, don’t wait. Schedule your colonoscopy now.
(Dr. Phillip R. Bowden is the medical director of Mid-South Gastroenterology Group, located in Midtown and East Memphis. He leads the Colonoscopy Now initiative, a yearlong campaign to get 100 percent of qualifying Memphians screened for colon cancer. Learn more about Dr. Bowden and the Mid-South Gastroenterology Group at DoctorBowden.com.)