Colon cancer is the most common of the cancers, but it's the most preventable. March is Colorectal (colon/rectal) Cancer Awareness Month and we met a Brandon man who is lucky he got to the gastroenterologist when he did.
At the age of 68 Pete Bonenberger can breathe a sigh of relief these days. He is a 10 year colon cancer survivor and he truly is one of the lucky ones. He was 58 when he came to the Avera Gastroenterology Clinic in 1999 only after noticing blood in his stool. Dr. Larry Schafer immediately did a colonoscopy and found Pete had advanced colon cancer.
Dr. Schafer says, "Colon cancer doesn't usually have symptoms until it's advanced so if you wait until you have symptoms you may be dealing with a serious life threatening problem."
The colon is another name for the large intestine. It encompasses the small intestines and runs 4' or 48". Pete had 18" of his large intestine removed.
Pete tells us, "It's pretty standard to take 9" on either side of the tumor."
Pete's cancer had also spread to his lymph nodes so he also had to undergo 6 months of chemotherapy after surgery, but again he's lucky it hadn't gone to other organs.
Dr. Schafer says, "I think people are reluctant to get the screening exam which is unfortunate. If they wait until the symptoms occur often the disease is advanced so 77,000 people die needlessly every year."
Pete doesn't mind being made an example of because he knows that if he would have gotten a colonoscopy at the recommended age of 50, Dr. Schafer would have found the slow growing polyps back then and removed them. It would have saved Pete a lot of pain and suffering.
Pete's advice to you, "I would say get the check up. Get your colonoscopy. No doubt in my mind it saved my life."
There is no doubt in his doctor's mind either. Had Pete not come here immediately after seeing blood, he knows he probably would be here at all.
Pete says, "I feel very fortunate. Really."
If you're 50 or older get your colonoscopy scheduled tomorrow.
Recommendations: If you have a first degree relative, mom, dad, or sibling, who had colon cancer before the age of 50, you need to get screened 10 years earlier than the age they had it.So if they were 46 and had colon cancer, you need to have your first colonoscopy at 36. If that first degree relative had colon cancer after the age of 50, you should get your first colonoscopy at 40.