Body maintenance isn’t always fun. We’re rather resigned to mammograms, pap smears, and dental exams, but getting a colorectal cancer screening? Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer or large bowel cancer, includes cancerous growths in the colon, rectum, and (believe it or not) appendix. With 655,000 deaths worldwide per year, it is the fourth most common form of cancer in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. I had my first screening ten years ago, and I will schedule my second soon. If you’re 50 or older and dread the thought, you’re not alone because only half of the population does it. My doctor pushes it because having a screening saved his life. During a screening a doctor looks for signs of actual precancerous polyps or abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. Screening helps locate early colorectal cancer, and catching it early means treatment will be much more successful. Here’s a rundown: prior to the screening, the subject drinks a liquid that flushes out the colon. This bowel cleansing solution tastes something like jello but not as good. Actually the subject can eat jello that isn’t red or purple. During the screening, the sedated subject doesn’t realize (thank goodness) the doctor inserts a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube through the rectum into the colon and looks for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. If polyps are found, the doctor removed them right then with a tool on the colonoscope, avoiding another procedure. With a colonoscopy the rectum and entire colon are examined. With a sigmidoscopy, only the rectum and lower colon are examined. A less invasive test is the fecal occlt blood test (FOBT) where at home, the person places small samples of stool on a special card and returns it to the doctor or lab for testing. If blood is found, this is a sign of polyps or cancer, and further tests (colonoscopy) are necessary. However, the FOBT does not detect early polyps that are not yet bleeding.