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Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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The squeamish screening that could save your life

Online quotes about things said while getting a colonoscopy reveal the dread and the humor that people feel when it’s time for this most-probing of exams:

“Can you hear me now?”

“Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?”

And, “Hey doc, find my dignity yet?”

But as squeamish as you may feel about the procedure, it’s one screening that produces great health benefits. (Just ask Dr. Oz, who had his televised — and they found a polyp!) The more than 10 million people a year in North America who get scoped are the reason that the incidence of colon cancer is declining precipitously. And if everyone at normal risk for colon cancer were screened every 10 years (from age 50 until 75), it could eliminate 61 percent of distal cancers (in the lower colon) and 22 percent of proximal cancers (in the upper colon). That’s because spotting and removing non- or precancerous polyps and adenomas (benign or precancerous tumors) during a colonoscopy stops colon cancer from developing.

Unfortunately, only 69 percent of men and women over 50 have ever been screened for colon cancer (colonoscopy is the most effective, but not the only method). So, if you’re 50 or older and have never had a colonoscopy, ask your doctor about arranging for one. And remember: Eighty-five percent of folks who get colon cancer have no family history, so everyone needs to be screened. Chances are you won’t have to do it for another 10 years!

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For 16 hours a year (nine times a day for the average viewer) friendly voices come through the TV promising that a brand-name medicine can cure what ails you. That’s the estimated onslaught of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising on U.S. television. (In Canada, ads can mention either the brand or the indication, but not both.)

Now a new report sounds a consumer alert: While 43 percent of prescription ad claims are objectively true (for nonprescription medicines it was only 23 percent), 55 percent are potentially misleading and 2 percent are false. So how can you get the benefits you need from medications without falling for the hype? Here are three tips.

1. When drug ads come on TV, be skeptical. Ask yourself why it is always rugged men driving big trucks who have erectile dysfunction, and why it is always dreamy-eyed women who look like they could spin their own wool who are fighting depression? If you take a second look, you’ll be able to differentiate between the pitch and the substance.

2. Before you ask your doc for a medication you’ve seen on TV, or whenever you get a new prescription, read the prescribing information (it’s on the website and in the package). You’ll discover usage, warning and precautions, info on clinical studies and much more.

3. Then ask your doctor how the med will affect YOU, what’s the goal and the risk of taking it; and if there are alternative medications that can achieve the same result.

Together, make an informed decision about what meds you take.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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