Screening to Stop a Killer

Harvey Chebo never dreamed a trip to the doctor nearly three years ago for a constipation problem would change his life.

"I thought it was because I was traveling, all the hotel food I was eating," Chebo said.

His doctor sent him for a colonoscopy. The results - Harvey had colon cancer. His first thoughts were of his family, and wondering if he'd every again see another summer or holiday.

"This is growing inside of you and you can't run from it," he said. "There's no where to run."

Harvey's story is all too common.

"We have the ability to pick it up early, but we're not doing a good job of it," says Dr. Robert Braun, a gastroenterologist with Cotton-O'Neil Clinic.

Dr. Braun said that's because people don't want to get screened. A colonoscopy is the best way to catch the polyps that become cancer before they have a chance to do so. Men and women should be screened at age 50. If there's no problem, another screening isn't needed for ten years. If there's a family history of colon problems, a person should be screened ten years prior to their relative's first sign of disease.

Caught early, Dr. Braun said the cure rate for colon cancer is 90-percent. If advanced, he said, it drops to 25-percent. It's a statistic he says should be enough to overcome any fears.

"Fears are normal, but unfounded," Dr. Braun said.

He said many people believe the screening will be painful, but he said most people don't even remember it. He said for most people the most unpleasant part is the prep that starts the night before for emptying your colon.

Harvey wishes he would have been checked sooner. His tumor was the size of an orange, but after two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, he's cancer free.

"I didn't go in for early screening and I almost died," he said. "I'm very lucky to be alive and I thank God for that every day."

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