Avera Medical Minute AM: Patient credits colonoscopy for saving his life

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Colon cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women. 90% of those diagnosed are age 50 and over. Colonoscopies are the gold standard of colon cancer prevention.

“My doctor kept telling me ‘hey, you’re 53. It’s time to go in,’ so I said, ‘okay, let’s get it over with,’” said Randy Fenger of Cottonwood, Minn.

Fenger credits being alive to a routine colonoscopy.

“I had eight polyps and one was cancerous and I was so thankful that I went in when I did,” said Fenger.

“Then they went back and surgically removed the section where the colon cancer was and sewed that back together. And then a few weeks later he came to us to talk about doing chemotherapy,” said Jeff Moriarty, certified nurse practitioner and director of the Avera Cancer Institute in Marshall.

Moriarty says there aren’t usually signs or symptoms of early colon cancer.

“And so doing your colonoscopy is the best thing you can do because it’s not just looking for cancer, but there’s a lot of polyps in your colon that you can develop that become cancer -- so removing some of those polyps during your colonoscopy, we can prevent the cancer from actually happening,” said Moriarty.

If Fenger would have waited a few months, or a year or two, to get a colonoscopy, his outcome may have been very different. The cancer had started to spread through the wall of his colon.

“So if that would have continued to spread on the outside and attach to other internal organs or attach and gotten into the lymph nodes or gotten into his liver, then he would have been a stage four and it would have been a point where we may not ever been able to cure him,” said Moriarty.

Fenger feels thankful he only has to travel 15 miles to Avera Marshall for chemotherapy.

“And that’s another awesome thing, Marshall, beautiful facility here and not have to travel -- you do four and a half hours, five hours of chemo and it’s nice just to drive home. I can’t imagine having to drive to Wilmer or Sioux Falls.

Fenger feels very lucky and is now advocating for others to start getting colonoscopies at the recommended age of 50.

“I’m telling people left and right, go get it done, very easy -- and if you have to go through what I went through, get it done before that,” said Fenger.

Fenger’s positive attitude has helped him tremendously along this journey.

“I’m not religious by far but I’m a strong believer in God and he’s there for me,” said Fenger.

Age 50 is when you’re supposed to get your first colonoscopy and every 10 years thereafter based on your results. If you have a primary relative who was diagnosed with colon cancer before age 50, it’s recommended you have your first colonoscopy 10 years before their diagnosis.

For more information, just call 877-AT-AVERA.