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'Worth the peace of mind'

Retired Air Force colonel makes colonoscopy a priority

Col. Morris Davis, 57, the former chief prosecutor for military commissions at Guantanamo Bay and a retired 25-year Air Force veteran, is no stranger to media appearances.

However, he recently took to social media to share a more intimate personal moment following his colonoscopy at Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center.

Davis tweeted to his 58,000 Twitter followers: “I have the colon of a 25-year-old … yoga is paying off. Folks at @NovantHealth couldn’t have been nicer.”

Davis shared his recent colonoscopy experience, in part, because he said he often hears excuses from friends avoiding a recommended colonoscopy — and he seeks to change that mindset.

“I've heard people say they won't get a colonoscopy because they're too embarrassed or they don't want to go through the hassle of doing the prep,” he said. “That's a shame since it's a relatively minor inconvenience to do a procedure that's so effective at detecting a very treatable form of cancer that can be dreadful and deadly if allowed to spread.”

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States and the second leading cause in men. It is expected to cause about 50,260 deaths during 2017.

“For the majority of cases, colorectal cancer is preventable, since it starts as a polyp that can be removed during a screening colonoscopy,” according to Dr. Scott Choi, director of digestive disease at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center and Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center.

“Studies have shown that removing suspicious polyps not only reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, but reduces the number of deaths from the disease by more than a half,” Choi added.

Morris is vigilant about ensuring he receives these regular screenings, particularly after having several benign polyps removed after his first colonoscopy several years ago at age 50.

While he was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center during his active service, the now-retired colonel chose Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center for his recent procedure.

“My wife and I were very impressed with the Haymarket hospital and the entire staff,” he said. “From the guard at the front desk to the receptionist to the nurses to the doctors, we didn't encounter a single person who wasn't exceptionally pleasant, professional and helpful. I'd give the entire experience an A+.”

Studies have shown that colonoscopies reduce deaths from colorectal cancer by about 60 to 70 percent. In fact, one study suggests if more widespread screenings were conducted among older adults, nearly 277,000 new colorectal cancer cases and 200,000 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented within 20 years.

It is recommended for individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer to start regular screenings at age 50 and continue until age 75 as long as their results are negative.

Despite the temporary inconvenience a colonoscopy can pose, Morris said, “It was worth the peace of mind knowing I don’t have to come back for another five years.”

Within 24 hours of his colonoscopy, he said, he was home eating cabbage and corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

Should you have a colonoscopy? Here are some indicators from the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons:

  • Change in bowel habits.
  • General stomach discomfort.
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling the bowel does not empty completely.
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason.
  • Constant tiredness.

Read about factors that impact your colon cancer risk here.

Published: 4/4/2017