Some counsel on caring for your colon:

• Anyone 50 or older should have colonoscopy screenings every 10 years (more frequently if polyps are found); younger people with family histories of the disease or with Crohn's Disease and other ailments should consult their physicians.

• Heed warning signs. "Listen to your body," said Anne Carlson, executive director of Colon Cancer Coalition. "You know if you have backaches and blood in your stool. Doctors are not mind-readers, and people think they are. We are in charge of our house."

• Don't schedule a colonoscopy in the afternoon. "I did my latest at 3:30 in the afternoon, and it was pure torture, because you have two days of not eating," Carlson said. "I also thought 'I'm going to get a day of work in,' but I had to stay near the bathroom and didn't get a lot done."

• For a few days beforehand, eat carefully. "Eat soft foods or eat like you're sick, in the two to three days before your 'purging' day," Carlson said. "I tell people that it's kind of like you have the flu. Go with soft food for three or four days. Low-fiber stuff, mashed potatoes, soup, things like that. No steaks. You don't want to be dealing with a steak coming out; that's not fun."

Bill Ward