Dealing with Colonoscopy Dread

by | Jun 27, 2012 | Healthcare

In Houston colonoscopy circles, every gastroenterologist has heard just about every joke one might think of about the procedure, but most laughingly oblige their patients because humor relieves stress. No one looks forward eagerly to missing work in Houston for a colonoscopy. Most would rather just keep working. And even though everyone knows that having the procedure done every year when you are over 50, and sooner when you are someone who is at high risk for colon cancer, saves lives, it still isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.

So,” says one guy, a twinkle in his wrinkled eye, “Did ya find my head up there?” The nurse smiles and chuckles, turns away and returns a scripted retort, or the doctor grimaces and laughs, even though this joke is as stale as the excess gas that permeates the post-screening recovery room.

Humor is a great buffer,” says one practitioner. “It’s a way of dealing with colonoscopy dread. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the same lame jokes, or heard husbands tell their wives their heads were not discovered during the procedure, etcetera. There is evidently a whole genre of humor known as ‘proctology jokes’ even though gastroenterologists no longer call themselves proctologists. In fact, that may be why.”

While many people make jokes as a way to release stress when they show up for their Houston colonoscopy, others use it as a diversion from embarrassment. In American culture, many people are ashamed of their quite normal bodily parts and functions, and having this necessary exam seems to present a challenge to personal dignity. By the end of it, however, almost no one feels as though they have been stripped of dignity. It is always the patient, and not the Houston colonoscopy technician, who tells the jokes.

One guy asked,” says a technician, “Hey, do you see my dignity up there? That gives us a clue as to where their comfort level is and how we might be able to adjust, or even possibly, might need to increase sedatives. If people are stressed out and tense and not sedated enough, it can cause problems during the procedure. But we want everyone to be as comfortable as possible. Many people, in fact, are so comfortable they do not care about notions of dignity, and do not in fact remember the procedure clearly once it is over.”

Houston colonoscopy practitioners provide a vital service in screening for cancer and other health issues, and in so doing, they save lives. That, contends one practitioner, is no laughing matter.

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