When I was a kid, I had a pediatrician who had a bowl of lollipops in his office. If you didn't have a tantrum and didn't hide from the doctor, you got your reward on the way out. Adults are too sophisticated for that bit of behavior modification. If I offered you a lollipop for signing up for a colonoscopy, I would have few takers.
If a sugary treat isn't reward enough, what will do the trick? A dinner at a nice restaurant? An all-expense paid weekend in Las Vegas? A trip to Europe?
The trouble with colonoscopies is that they are such an invasive medical procedure, that it takes more than money to motivate someone to get one. If you have health insurance, it probably covers the procedure, which is recommended by The American Cancer Society for everyone at average risk of cancer, beginning at age 50.
First, a bit about the invasiveness and unpleasantness: You have to drink a gallon of laxative within 24 hours of the procedure. I never met anyone who has that on their list of things they like to do. Then, you go to an outpatient center where you put on one of those backless robes, an anesthetist knocks you out, and while you're out, a doctor runs a narrow, flexible tube with a miniature camera on its end all the way up your colon, starting at the most convenient body opening -- your rear end.
Children can overcome their fear of medical procedures by being promised a reward of some sort. Adults have the advantage of being able to act strategically. We can assess the risks and benefits of a medical procedure and take the course of action that's best.
Here are the facts: The National Cancer Instituter reports that each year, 102,900 people develop colon cancer and 39,670 people come down with rectal cancer. A colonoscopy done in time can find and eliminate abnormal growths (polyps) before they have had time to turn into cancer. That's worth repeating: It not only can detect a cancer before it has time to spread, but it can actually prevent cancer by getting rid of polyps.
We are fortunate to live in a time when we have access to tools that can prevent cancer. You can play the odds, betting on not getting colon cancer -- despite the fact that colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death -- or you can put up with a little discomfort and increase your odds of a long and healthy life.