Dr Peter Moore: For the first time in my life I was doing something fashionable
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Doctors make terrible patients. I either completely deny I have a problem or decide it is terminal.
But that does not stop me being first in the queue for any screening test or immunisation. What I do not expect is for any test to be positive.
This year, before the lockdown, I sent off my regular 'poo test'. This is a routine test for everyone over 60. It used to just test for blood but is now more sophisticated.
When I received the result instead of saying all was normal, it said 'further tests are needed'.
By 'further tests' it meant a colonoscopy, a flexible tube up my backside to view the bowel.
It pointed out that for every 100 people with a positive test only nine have a cancer. Most have a harmless 'polyp', a finger-like growth from the bowel wall, which can be removed.
The logical part of my brain told me that nine per cent chance of cancer meant 91 per cent chance of no cancer.
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If I was told I had a 91 per cent chance of winning the National Lottery, I'd buy a ticket.
Even an early cancer could be removed; after all that is why there is a screening test. There would be no point in screening to pick up things that cannot be treated.
But the emotional half of my brain did not agree. Mentally, I was on the operating table and told it had spread.
I knew this was illogical but I have seen enough problems in my career to worry.
I had to see the 'screening nurse' at Torbay Hospital. She was brilliant. She knew I was a retired GP but still ran through the statistics and checked my consent for the colonoscopy.
This time the chances of cancer were five per cent so it was getting better.
She ran through the risks, which are rare. I could back out, if back out is the right word for a tube up the backside.
Although my bowels are not something I normally discuss with friends, once I mentioned that I was due a colonoscopy it was amazing how many people had been through it.
Clearly, for the first time in my life I was doing something fashionable.
I was given drinks over the weekend before the test. I will not go into details. Suffice it to say when I had the colonoscopy the 'preparation' was good. I will never see the word preparation in the same light again.
On the day, the endoscopy unit were amazingly efficient.
I was given a gown with a hole in the back and my blood pressure was checked. It is a credit to the staff that my blood pressure was normal.
Lying on the couch ready for the test, I kept remembering how King Edward II met his end at Berkeley Castle, if 'met his end' is the right expression.
Once in the suite the consultant was chatty and supportive. I was also grateful that things had improved from the days, when I was a hospital doctor. We then used a solid 'sigmoidoscope'; a rigid tube.
It was unreal looking at the inside of my bowel on a screen but he did find a couple of polyps which he removed but nothing else. I was clear. The 91 per cent had come up; or in this case down.
I was even more relieved when, a couple of days later, I received a phone call telling me there was no cancer under the microscope.
So in two years' time do I just send off another sample? No. I now need a colonoscopy every two years.
That's something to look forward to.
Finally, I received a questionnaire asking for my opinion.
The service was excellent and the staff reassuring but there was one question I was not sure about.
Would I recommend it to friends and family?
If it's necessary of course, it could save your life.
But given a choice I'd rather be laying on a beach in the sun.