Colorectal cancer is the number two cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is preventable, and it is curable when detected early, but many shy away from the invasive test to detect it. That is why a Charlottesville minister decided to call in the cameras Monday for his own test, just to show that it is not so bad.
Reverend Alvin Edwards says he understands the fears that people have about getting their colons checked, but he says it is necessary, especially as people grow older.
Edwards says everyone should get a colonoscopy, like he did Monday.
"I'm not nervous," said Edwards, the pastor at Mt. Zion Church. "I'm pretty comfortable about this."
The American Cancer Society estimates that there were nearly 147,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in the U.S. last year. Nearly 50,000 died from the highly preventable and curable disease that forms from small polyps.
"Removing the polyp, we have techniques to do that, will prevent the cancer from forming," explained Martha Jefferson Hospital Gastroenterologist Daniel Pambianco.
"I've had parishioners who would not go and get their checkup because cancer runs high in their family for fear that they might have it," said Edwards.
Dr. Pambianco says colorectal cancer hits men and women of all races equally. It is most common after age 50 but it hits some groups harder.
"Currently the African American population and some other Asian populations, we understand that there is a higher mortality rate associated with colon cancer," said Pambianco.
A colonoscopy is pretty simple, and only takes 15 to 20 minutes.
"We use a flexible tube with a light on the end that's hooked to a camera that envisions the inside of the colon," Pambianco explained.
The doctor and the reverend say contrary to popular belief, colonoscopies are nothing to be scared of.
"I believe the tests have become much less onerous; the preparation is not as bad as it used to be," Pambianco said. "We sedate patients and make them comfortable."
"Actually, it just seems like they gave me the shot and then I was waking up and it was done," said Edwards.
Dr. Pambianco suggests African Americans start getting screened once they hit 45, and go every five years.