A couple of years ago I had my first colonoscopy. No it’s not typical for a guy in his mid-twenties to have the marginally annoying anal-probing procedure, but I did. There were two major reasons for me to get the ol’ colon checked out: one was my family and the other was my family history.

During a routine wellness visit with my doctor, the greatest internist I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, we started to revisit my family history of disease. I reminded him of the diabetes, the high blood pressure, and the thyroid conditions. He took notes and blood (at the time he still took blood himself, though he has “people” that do it now). I then mentioned opened up my family history in regards to colon cancer. He asked me if anyone in my immediate family had the disease, I told him yes. He asked me who they were and their ages, I told him that too. He looked at me and smiled. He said “you need to have a colonoscopy.” I replied that yes I was in a high risk category (me being a black male and all), but not quite 50 years old yet, which is the standard age for people to start getting checked. Then he explained something to me that I had never heard before.

If there is a strong family history of colon cancer where an immediate family member, (your father, mother, or sibling) has or has had the disease, then you should have a colonoscopy ten years earlier than whatever the age of the youngest person with the disease was at the time of their diagnosis.

Crap. I needed a colonoscopy.

After getting over the shock of having to concern myself with such things at such a tender young age I set up an appointment with one of the most well-regarded specialists in NYC, who just so happened to have been my primary doctor a few years ago. We had a consultation and he explained in greater detail the reason for my needing the procedure. He stated that it usually takes about ten years for a polyp to become cancer, which is why colon cancer is one of the more preventable and