Getting Behind Colorectal Screening: February 27, 2012

When he was in the working world, Larry Mickley was required to have a yearly physical. He kept up the practice after retirement. Seven years ago it paid off.

“In that physical, just on a bowel smear they said ‘uh oh, you may have a problem’ so one thing led to another thing until a colonoscopy and I found out that I had rectal cancer.”

Treating the stage one cancer required chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Larry is now a colorectal cancer survivor. Many others aren’t as fortunate.

“Colorectal cancer is actually the second cancer killer,” says Dr. Janette Gaw, a colorectal surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Dr. Gaw wants people to get behind colorectal awareness. A colonoscopy to screen for polyps can catch the disease early or eliminate it altogether.

“The good news about colonoscopies is that they can actually prevent cancers because technically polyps are the things that grow up to become cancers.”

The current recommendation is that people should get a colonoscopy at age 50, earlier if they have a family history of the disease or symptoms such as change in bowel habits or rectal bleeding. In most cases, there are no signs at all, making screening all the more important.

“A lot of people come in to see me to get their colon cancers removed and they’re kicking themselves going my doctor has told me to get this colonoscopy many years ago but something always came up,” says Dr. Gaw.

Now Larry has a new job, he heads up the area’s colorectal cancer support.

“At my meeting and anytime I’m with anybody I stress early detection.”

Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. Those are words to live by.