March marks colon cancer awareness month

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March is colon cancer awareness month.

It is recommended by the American Cancer Society that people be screened beginning at the age of 50. However, people who have a family history should be screened sooner.

The most common type of screening is a colonoscopy.  This is where a physician uses a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to look at the inner walls of the rectum and the entire colon. The patient is not awake for the procedure. It is minimally invasive and polyps can be removed during the process.

News 8's Rae Chelle Davis sat down with three colon cancer survivors and two doctors to discuss their experience with colon cancer.

"Do you think you would be sitting here right now if it weren't for your colonoscopies?"

All three survivors said no.

"It's been 10 and a half years since I had my colon cancer surgery. I've had five grandchildren since then. I have two granddaughters in college and we're really close and I would not have had that had I not been scoped," said Christine Longshore.

It's a similar story for all three survivors.

"There are so many things that you get to enjoy., said Rick Boothe, "grand-kids, for me personally, coaching and teaching."

Susan Mesa understands first hand the importance of not putting it off.

" I was guilty. I put it off even though I had a family history," said Mesa. "Had I gone sooner I would not have had to take chemo. They would have removed the polyp and that would have been the end of it."

"For stage one the survival rate is more than 90 percent. Stage four is less than 10 percent," said Dr. Bettaiah Gowda of the Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities.

"When we're doing these procedures we want first the good prep. If we have the best equipment in order to see the most polyps... the benefit is a good quality colonoscopy where all of the polyps are removed and that's what prevents you from developing colon cancer later," said Dr. Arvind Movva of Gastroenterology Consultants.

It looks like a video game - they use HD cameras and a controller to remove the polyps. The patient does not feel a thing and afterwards can return to normal activity within a few hours.

"Colon cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable," said Dr. Gowda.

Yet, only 40 percent of those who should be screened actually make an appointment. Some people say they did not know they should have been screened. Others claim they put it off because of the required "prep".

"They have to drink quite a bit of water but the prep is getting better. That's what I hear from most of my patients," said Dr. Gowda.

"A gentleman from Rock Island said be smart not brave. Go in get it done," said Boothe.

"It's one day. You do the prep in the privacy of your own home," said Mesa.

"You really do it for your family members. You don't do it for yourself," said Dr. Movva.

"Be around to watch your grand-kids grow and be with your family, added Mesa.

"If you have a history you need to be checked and if you don't have a history, if you're 50 you should probably be checked." recommends Longshore.

"I have to credit them with saving my life," admitted Mesa.