March 8, 2010
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and to raise awareness, one notable area resident lets CBS19 cameras roll as he undergoes a colonoscopy.
Colon cancer is the No. 2 cancer killer in the United States, yet doctors say it's one of the most preventable and curable.
Early detection, doctors say, is key, and they stress the importance of getting a colonoscopy.
Former Charlottesville city councilor Rev. Alvin Edwards allowed cameras in for the procedure to send a message.
"Some people say I'm kind of crazy for doing it but, I'm OK with it," Edwards said.
Before the test, he wasn't allowed to eat for more than a day. He's had to take some laxatives to clean out his system. He said it's a small discomfort compared to the potential life-saving benefit, and he said he hopes this will settle fears and inspire others in the community to do the same.
"If my doing this would encourage someone else to go, it might save their life, and what I'm about in my ministry is saving the lives of people," he said.
African-American men over 50 are one of the most at-risk populations, but doctors said they're among the least to get tested.
"Some of them are probably just afraid," Edwards said. "They might just think it's too invasive, but everybody has their fears."
"We mitigate against some of these uncomfortable aspects by giving people medications," gastroenterologist Dr. Daniel Pambianco said. "Most people don't even know they've had the exam performed."
During the procedure, Edwards is barely awake as doctors look for growths or polyps that can develop into cancer.
"Removing that polyp is sort of nipping that situation in the bud," Edwards said.
"Doctors say one of patients' biggest fears is discomfort during the procedure," Pambianco said. "They say for most patients they don't even remember what happens."
"I remember they gave me the medicine right when they started, and then I was kind of out, and then as he finished I was alert," Edwards said.
Edwards described the entire procedure as painless. A few minutes out of his life, he said, is worth preventing life-ending cancer.