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An Awkward Conversation with Dad


This Father’s Day is the perfect day to provide dad with some payback by gifting him with an awkward conversation. In 2017, it is estimated that there will be 71,420 men diagnosed with colorectal cancer – a cancer can be preventable. Colorectal cancer is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented through screening. Further, it can often be successfully treated if found early. The five-year survival rate is around 90 percent for colorectal cancers detected in their earliest stage.

The American Cancer Society and Adventist Health are determined to spread the word to ensure 80% of adults aged 50 or older screened by 2018. The American Cancer Society emphasizes that one of the most important steps you can take is to get tested for the disease.

It’s easy for men to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget how important health screenings may be. A little loving reminder from you might help your dad make an appointment with his primary care provider sooner than later.

If you find dear old dad is hesitant, try making health screenings a team sport by:

  • Agreeing to get up-to-date on your own screenings
  • Offering to give your dad a ride to his appointment—and maybe throw in a lunch date while you’re at it
  • Setting up an accountability challenge—maybe you can mow his lawn or wash his car if he gets his screenings before you do

“Be sure to talk with your doctor about getting tested,” said Elliot Joo, MD, a gastroenterologist at Adventist Health in Portland. “It’s important to remember there are simple and affordable options.”

Preventing colon cancer or finding it early doesn’t have to cost a lot. Most health insurance plans cover lifesaving preventive tests like those for colon cancer. Tests for colon cancer include:

  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) and the fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Samples of stool are checked for blood, which might be a sign of a polyp or cancer.
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA): A stool sample is checked for certain abnormal sections of DNA that come from cancer or polyp cells.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: A flexible, lighted tube is put into the rectum and lower colon to look for polyps and cancer.
  • Colonoscopy: A longer, flexible tube is used to look at the entire colon and rectum; polyps can be removed.
  • Double-contrast barium enema: An x-ray test of the colon and rectum.
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy): A type of CT scan of the colon and rectum.

“There are several different types of screening tests available,” Joo added. “It’s important to talk with your doctor about the option that’s best for you, as well as any concerns you have about screening. Ultimately, the best test is the one that gets completed.”

If you want to make health conversations a little less awkward with your dad, be sure you keep a healthy, ongoing relationship with him. Stop by or call him often. By being actively in touch, you’ll also be more aware if anything is changing in his life.

To learn more about the 80 by 2018 initiative, visit