South Jersey dad goes from cancer survivor to advocate for colorectal screening

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Sunday, April 2, 2023
Jersey dad who survived cancer speaks out for colorectal screening
A grandfather's early death to colon cancer spurs a young father to a test that discovered his colon cancer -- but saved his life.

MT. LAUREL, N.J. (WPVI) -- Americans were shocked when Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer at the age of 43.

But his case wasn't so rare. Colon cancer rates among young and middle-age adults are rising.

A young South Jersey father knows first-hand.

Shortly before his son was born, Josh Batushansky scheduled a colonoscopy, to answer a nagging question about his grandfather.

"He passed away of colon cancer in his mid-40s. So that was the thing in the back of my mind that prompted me," says Josh.

His gastroenterologist thought the 32-year-old Josh was a little young, but he backed the colonoscopy.

The polyps that were found seemed benign. But...

"Two days later, I'm getting a call from the doctor himself, saying, we identified cancer, colon cancer," Josh recalls.

And a few weeks later, surgeons at Fox Chase Cancer Center removed part of Josh's colon.

"There's still a myth out there that young people don't get colorectal cancer," says Dr. Vanessa Wookey, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

But Dr. Wookey says statistics tell a different story. Since 1995, colon cancer has doubled in those under 55. And it's often more advanced.

One theory says the American diet is a factor.

"Emerging theories center, centering on the microbiome, or the bacteria that live in our gut," she says.

Dr. Wookey says screening should start at 45 for those with an average risk, and earlier for higher-risk people.

She says there are several test options, however, colonoscopy remains the best.

"It's not just to detect cancer, it's also important for preventing cancer, as it can - during a colonoscopy, polyps that may eventually turn into cancer are removed," Dr. Wookey notes.

The next year, Josh needed eight months of chemotherapy for several tumors in his lung.

But when it was done, one tumor was gone. The other had shrunk.

"And in August of 2015, I had the lower left portion of my lung resected or removed," he says.

Nearly eight years later, Josh remains cancer-free, enjoying fatherhood, and tirelessly speaking out.

"Early detection is the only way to stop it. Without that, the cancer wins. And the lessons that cancer teaches you can be very harsh," he notes.

Dr. Wookey says to lower your colon cancer risk - limit processed meats like deli meat, bacon, or ham; cut back on sugary beverages; exercise and keep a healthy weight, and don't smoke.