For the media

Routine colon cancer screening saves lives

By The Health News Team | April 12, 2023
Blake Miller of San Diego and his family

Blake Miller, a healthy and fit father of two, understands the importance of screening for colon cancer even if he doesn’t have symptoms.

In 2021, Blake Miller learned he was due for his first colorectal cancer screening. An active and healthy father of two, Blake didn’t have any symptoms or family history of colon cancer.

“I figured I would complete the screening and receive the all-clear for the time being,” he says.

Blake received his at-home fecal immunochemical test (FIT) in the mail. FIT kits, provided by a doctor or laboratory, allow people to conveniently screen for colon cancer in the privacy of their home. The test can detect hidden blood in the stool that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Blake was shocked to learn his test results were positive. He was scheduled for a follow-up colonoscopy — a visual examination of the lining of the rectum and colon using a flexible fiber-optic endoscope.

During the procedure, Dr. Alissa Speziale, a gastroenterologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, found 11 polyps — small growths of tissue on the inner lining of the colon. Dr. Speziale removed the polyps and they were determined to be the precancerous type, called adenomas.

“The number of adenomas he had is less common,” Dr. Speziale says. “Given the amount he had, he likely would have been at a higher risk to develop colon cancer if they weren’t removed.”

The power of early detection

Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a precancerous polyp like Blake’s, which doctors can remove during a colonoscopy before it has a chance to turn into cancer. More than 40% of people over age 50 have precancerous polyps in the colon.

“It was a surprise to me and my family,” Blake says. “But we were relieved to have caught this early before it could turn into something more serious.”

His story even prompted a close family member to get their first colonoscopy. It’s a decision that may have saved their life.

“My father had been reluctant to get screened for many years but decided to get a colonoscopy after hearing about my results,” Blake says. “The doctor found a tumor and it turned out to be early-stage colon cancer.”

Blake’s father recently underwent a colectomy — also called colon resection surgery — to have the tumor removed along with a portion of his colon. Luckily, the cancer hadn’t spread, and he made a full recovery.

Today, Blake remains grateful that a simple, at-home test helped him stay on top of his health.

“The FIT screening was easy, discreet and appropriately alerted that something wasn’t right,” Blake says. “Don’t delay your screening. You may not catch the cancer until it’s too late.”

In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer. It is recommended adults at low to average risk for colorectal cancer begin screening at age 45. Talk with your doctor about your colorectal cancer risk factors and screening options.

Learn more about colorectal cancer; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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