Get the test. Just get the test.

Wakanda is inspiring fiction. Colonoscopies are a life-saving fact.

John I. Carney
4 min readAug 29, 2020

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Marvel Studios

“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman has died after a long battle with colon cancer.

In the movies, Black Panther and his homeland, Wakanda, use their superior, futuristic technology for good. But we have technology, today, that can help fight colon cancer .

It’s called a colonoscopy. And the unique thing about it is that it’s not only a diagnostic test, it can actually be a preventative measure — something that can keep you from getting colon cancer in the first place.

It used to be that people with no special risk factors were encouraged to get a colonoscopy at age 50. The American Cancer Society now recommends you start at age 45. People with special risk (such as family history) may be advised by their doctor to get the test earlier. Yes, it’s a hassle — not so much the procedure itself as the day before the procedure. But it could save your life.

I repeat: It could save your life.

Here’s what happens in a colonoscopy. You will be sedated, and while you are out of it the gastroenterologist will insert a flexible, snake-like device into your colon. This snake contains a camera, allowing the gastroenterologist to look for polyps, and the general condition of your colon. It also contains a device for cutting away polyps and retrieving them so that they can be tested for cancer.

A polyp is an abnormal growth in your colon. Some of them are cancerous; others are benign (non-cancerous). If the gastroenterologist finds a polyp, he or she will remove it and have it tested. If it is cancerous, of course, you and your oncologist will discuss issues like how far the cancer has progressed and what the proper treatment might be. The sooner you know you have cancer, the more options there are for treatment, and the better the chance that the cancer will be beaten and you will return to normal health.

But, here’s the thing. Benign polyps can become cancerous later on. That means that if a non-cancerous polyp is found and removed during your colonoscopy, that could actually mean the procedure has prevented what might have been a case of colon cancer in the future.

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John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at http://www.lakeneuron.com/dislike