A certain medical rite of passage at age 50 involves anal insertion and it’s the kind most look upon with dread: the colonoscopy.
Accompanied by friend and comforter Katie Couric (Couric’s husband died of colon cancer at the age of 42), Kimmel allowed a film crew to film his journey to the hospital to have the procedure, which takes about 20 minutes to an hour, requires sedation, and involves what many describe as the most unpleasant part of the procedure – the prior night’s bowel prep, which involves drinking a laxative liquid that makes you go to the toilet, frequently.
“You’re about to watch a camera go where no camera has ever gone before,” said Kimmel before embarking on his procedure.
“Colorectal cancer annually strikes about 140,000 people and causes 60,000 deaths, but is potentially curable if detected in its early stages,” according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. “More than 90 percent of patients are over 40, at which point the risk of contracting the disease doubles every ten years.”
So, kudos to Kimmel for opening up (so to speak) and bringing attention to this necessary procedure with humor.
Colonoscopies can also detect other health issues, ones of specific significance for gay men.
Anal cancer caused by chronic or persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is one issue gay men should be aware of, particularly if HIV-positive.
Almost 620,000 gay and bisexual men in the United States were living with HIV in 2014, and 100,000 of these men were not even aware of their infection. These men are 100 times more likely to have anal cancer than HIV-negative men who exclusively have sex with women.
…Initiation of anti-retroviral therapy in the 1990s greatly reduced the AIDS-related death rate and improved survival. However, this improvement in survival led to an increase in the lifetime risk of developing anal cancer, especially among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men.”
…Anal cancer is typically preceded by persistent HPV infection that often leads to precancer. HPV is common among U.S. men; about one out of two men in the general population has HPV infection. HPV typically clears naturally; however, under certain circumstances, it might persist longer and might progress to anal precancer. If it remains undetected, untreated or inadequately treated, this precancer can progress to anal cancer.
Aside from cancer detection, colonoscopies can also reveal other anorectal issues like fissures, and STIs such as herpes, HPV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and peri-anal disease, though many of these can also be detected using less invasive methods.
Which is why you should have regular check-ups with a gay-affirmative doctor.
Body Conscious: Gay Men’s Health, Sex, and Self is a new regular twice-monthly feature from Towleroad covering the unique issues gay men face with regard to physical and mental fitness.
If you are a writer/professional with a background in gay men’s health interested in contributing to this regular column, shoot us an email at jobs-at-towleroad.com.