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The Boston Globe


opinion | Joan Wickersham

A needed test that no one wants to get

‘IF EVERYONE got regular colonoscopies, then no one would die of colon cancer.” That’s what the surgeon told me, after spending a full day operating on my mother. She was 65 at the time, and had never had a colonoscopy. By the time her cancer was detected — after a high fever had sent her to the doctor — it had spread. The surgeon had removed it from her large and small intestines, and her stomach lining, and he also removed her uterus and an ovary.

Twenty years later, as I get ready for my next colonoscopy in just a few days, I still remember the quiet certainty of my mother’s doctor. We’re always talking about finding a cure for cancer. Colonoscopy offers the potential for cure, through early detection. Equally important, the procedure actually reduces the need for cure, because it can help stop cancer before it ever gets started. Different technologies are being developed, but meanwhile, colonoscopy is a great one that is sadly underutilized.

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