Scott Ferris, 53, of Danvers knows these statistics and the danger of delaying screening testing all too well. As chief of building operations for The Hall Company in Lynn, he leads an active life and is always on the go. A cyclist at heart, he and his wife have completed three two-day, 190-mile Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thons. At the age of 50, he knew it was time for his first colonoscopy, however, when his primary care physician gave him a clean bill of health and he had no noticeable symptoms, he postponed that crucial test. “I felt fine. I didn’t think there was anything to worry about,” explained Ferris.
Two years later, when NSMC gastroenterologist Gregg Brodsky, M.D., performed a colonoscopy on Ferris, there was plenty to cause concern. “I remember waking up from the test and seeing a very serious look on the nurse’s face,” said Ferris. “Dr. Brodsky and my wife soon walked in and I got the bad news.” Dr. Brodsky had found a large cancerous polyp in Ferris’s lower colon. “You hear that word, cancer, and you automatically think the worst,” said Ferris.
The first step for Ferris was surgery. NSMC’s chief of general surgery, William Kastrinakis, M.D., removed a 12-inch section of Ferris’s colon to eliminate the cancerous polyp. Then, Ferris met with Lauren Dias, M.D., an oncologist at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers, to determine if he needed chemotherapy or radiation treatment to get rid of any remaining cancerous cells or to prevent recurrence.
Fortunately, his cancer was removed with surgery and he did not need any further treatments. Still, earlier screening would have helped to reveal the tumor when it could have been removed without major surgery.
“It’s clear that screening can save lives but, unfortunately, statistics show that too many people avoid it,” said Dr. Brodsky. “Early detection is important and everyone needs to be proactive in assessing their risk of colon cancer.” The most popular method for screening, the colonoscopy, is a painless test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine. “The preparation for the test is uncomfortable, but it is well worth the effort,” adds Dr. Brodsky.
In addition to advising that men and women age 50 and older be screened regularly, colon cancer screening guidelines identify some factors that increase a person’s risk of developing the disease, including personal or family history, African-American and Hispanic descent and lifestyle factors.
Ferris is scheduled for his one-year follow-up colonoscopy this winter. While he is not so nervous about the test itself, he is anxious about the results.“I just don’t ever want to go through this again. I tell everyone I know, at age 50 you have to insist on having this test done. Don’t wait… it could save your life.”