Why patients with lesser-threatening ailments pay more for treatments

I recently had the odd experience of being subjected to three four-hour bowel movements in a row — one after the other.

In the three different bowel movements (ones we considered excessively frequent, to put it mildly), I developed a puffy face, large amounts of bloating, wind and backache, among other discomforts.

My doctor couldn’t tell me what was wrong with me or whether I needed another colonoscopy, which is usually the best we have, but we’re about to get a letter from a gastroenterologist. And then some more. And while that letter might not cure me or solve my problem, I wonder how much more I’m paying for insufferable colitis and irritable bowel syndrome than those who don’t have them.

Colorectal cancer is, by far, the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the world. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and one out of 31 people will die from the disease.

And, also by far, the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the world.

“Colorectal cancer (CRC) rates are rising worldwide, due to the increasing incidence of obesity and diet-related GI complaints, such as diabetes and an unhealthy diet,” said Dr. Marian K. Graulich, a member of a biopharmaceutical companies’ clinical medical advisory board, in an article published by Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

It’s even making inroads in the U.S. In Minnesota, for example, more than 5 percent of adults have had colorectal cancer in their lifetime, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. In New York, there have been 167 deaths from CRC so far this year, just 27 fewer than there were at this time last year.

Those numbers are frightening.

But colorectal cancer can be cured.

Evidence suggests that once the colon is removed through surgery and cisplatin therapy, its removal becomes extremely unimportant.

“Those with late-stage liver or stomach cancers may be able to treat these cancers with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which provide some gastrointestinal side effects. These treatment options have fewer negative side effects, even though they also produce some weight gain,” Dr. Graulich said.

Oxygen — through surgery, antibiotics and transplants — can also be lifesaving for some patients who have slow-growing cancers.

With a CPV, you can have your treatment administered with the same alkylating agent used to dissolve concrete, which is possible, but an additional procedure. And there are no CPV drugs available to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, a disease that can cause acid reflux, which can put pressure on the esophagus.

As for my very rare disease, chronic, unrelenting irritable bowel syndrome, you can cause the discomfort in your private parts, but we’re not sure why and how it makes you feel. But, if you’re like me, if you let the disease take you down a dark path, the most you can do is try to improve your condition through lifestyle change.

Whatever your discomfort, consider also calling your doctor if you do experience what can feel like symptoms of a different disease, and be sure to find the right MD for you.

Andrew Wang is a Boston-based writer.

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