Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. But colonoscopy can reduce deaths from this cancer by about 60 to 70 percent. "Regular screening is very important because if polyps are found they can be removed before they turn into cancer," said Mehmet Hepgur, M.D., hematologist/oncologist with the Broward Health Physician Group. "And when colorectal cancer is caught early, survival is
Dana Jamison had a family history of cancer and was vigilant about being tested regularly. In 2016, a colonoscopy revealed a polyp, which is a precancerous lesion. It turned out she had a mass in her cecum, an area connecting her small and large intestines. She was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Jamison had surgery to remove the diseased section of her cecum and rejoin the large intestine and small intestine. Jamison then started chemotherapy. She chose the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Broward Health Medical Center for her continuing treatment of the Stage 3 cancer and worked with the multidisciplinary team of renowned oncology specialists, including Dr. Hepgur.
“Stage 3 colon cancer is a common health problem, and it has a very high risk of recurrence,” said Dr. Hepgur. “That is the reason why Stage 3 patients get chemotherapy for approximately six months to prevent cancer coming
back in the future.”
Three years later and cancer-free, Jamison said, “It never occurred to us that I wouldn’t get through it.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Most colorectal cancers start as a small growth in the lining of the colon or rectum, called a polyp. Many people with early-stage colon cancer don’t have any symptoms. Others may experience rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or cramps or unexplained weight loss.
Regular screening is key. “Patients who are younger than 50 or who have an extensive family history of colon cancer may undergo genetic screening, as Dana did,” Dr. Hepgur said.
Although there are other screening options, Dr. Hepgur noted that colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon cancer screening. He advises patients to have their first colonoscopy at age 45.
“If you identify a polyp and the polyp can be removed, you can actually prevent the colon cancer
that would arise from that polyp in the future,” he said.
WHAT'S THE RISK?
Today, Jamison stresses the importance of getting tested, especially if you have a family history of cancer. You can learn more about genetic evaluation, counseling and testing for a person with an increased risk for cancer at BrowardHealth.org/Services/Colorectal-Services.