Should I live-tweet my colonoscopy?

ScopeMy father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1999 and was a 13-year survivor of the disease when he died from other causes two years. It was a disease he bore with grace and fortitude despite living with a colostomy following the surgery and chemotherapy.

His diagnosis meant I am at higher risk of developing the disease and it was recommended that I be screened via colonoscopy every five years.

This is something I willingly embrace whenever the time comes. It’s not one of my favourite anniversaries but the prep and procedure are not nearly as uncomfortable as those who have not undergone the procedure believe.

Also, as a long time medical writer on things gastrointestinal (Digestive Disease Week – DDW-  was, and remains, one of my favourite clinical meetings – I mean where else can you hear about such medical breakthroughs as the self-propelled colonscope) I have seen the evidence showing that through early screening and detection of polyps, colonoscopy can almost totally guarantee you will not develop the disease.  It’s rare that you can say that about any screening test for any cancer.

Yesterday I got a notice that it was time to visit the specialist to schedule the colonoscopy. It will be my fourth and all have been uneventful procedures whether done with or without conscious sedation.

Knowing the toll colon cancer continues to take in this country and the refusal of people to participate in any screening for colorectal cancer ranging from the slightly yucky but noninvasive fecal occult blood test (FOBT) to the gold standard of colonoscopy, I was thinking maybe I could do my part to raise awareness.

Being a Twittercentric guy I have started to ponder the value of live-tweeting my colonoscopy.

Now until recently I have not been a supporter of live-tweeting anything in the medical examining room or surgical suite. But the recent exercise at Sunnybrook Hospital where an open-heart surgery procedure was live-tweeted in an informative and productive manner has made me rethink this.

Of course, a routine colonoscopy – which I expect to be totally uneventful–  arguably ranks just above tweeting your day in the office or dinner with friends in terms of entertainment value. Also for someone who tends to tweet or retweet academic information about the value of social media in health care maybe this is TMI (Too Much Information).

But maybe a series of tweets about just what is involved could raise the information quotient and persuade even a few people that this is something they should consider. And as someone who advocates combining some personal information along with purely professional tweets it can be argued I should ‘walk the talk’ so to speak.

I would be interested in what others think. Please respond to this blog, tweet or DM me.

(Oh, the image at the top of this story?  It’s a 3D fridge magnet of a colonscopy distributed at a DDW meeting a long time ago)





9 thoughts on “Should I live-tweet my colonoscopy?

  1. Yoiks. Live-tweeting a colonoscopy is right up there with live-tweeting health conferences, in my book.

    But aren’t you going to be sedated and even possibly under a general anaesthetic during the procedure? I’m assuming somebody in the room will be live-tweeting this procedure for you, or else your tweets will be less than interesting, e.g.” #livecolonoscopy Doing okaaaaaa…zzzzzzzz….”

    Also, will this top the ratings for TV host Katie Couric’s famous televised colonoscopy?

    • Was thinking that I could still tweet while under conscious sedation. Might be overly optimistic though and maybe “not tweeting while under sedation” is one of those caveats that I should add to not tweeting when in a pub after 9 pm, when lecturing people about when to tweet.

  2. What is the main purpose of live tweeting any medical procedure? It would appear that your main purpose is to raise awareness about the importance and value of colon cancer screening, in part presumably to demonstrate that it’s not all that bad.

    In my case (yes, I’ve had one – similar family history scenario), the prep and time commitment was more disruptive than the procedure. Will you also include the lead up to the colonoscopy itself?

    In my opinion, live tweeting your colonscopy could be eye opening for the health care system. Point out where instructions are unclear, could be improved (plain language), where patient flow/services could use adjustments and what worked well.

    Who is your audience? Is that audience on Twitter? I think live-tweeting your colonoscopy could serve as a 1) useful quality improvement exercise “through the eyes of the patient” and 2) possibly as a patient education tool. Storify the tweets for 2 different audiences and purposes. Don’t forget pictures where appropriate.

    • If I did this I was going to include the prep as well (but not in graphic detail). I saw exercise – if it goes ahead – as a patient education tool.

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