Doctors caution not to miss colonoscopy appointments to prevent colon cancer

ByHeather Grubola WPVI logo
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Do not delay your colonoscopy
Colon cancer is one of the more prevalent forms of cancer, but if it's caught early, it's also one of the only cancers that's preventable.

The numbers are certainly scary, doctors estimate that one in 20 people will develop colon cancer at some point in their life. The good news is that if it's caught early it's one of the only cancers that's preventable.

Colonoscopies are not pleasant to talk about but they are critical in catching colon cancer early.

And they shouldn't be avoided during the pandemic. We have the story of a nurse who said she put her's off and she shouldn't have.

55-year-old Kerry Konefal admitted she put off her colonoscopy for too long.

"I was actually about three years late for my colonoscopy, which yes, and as a nurse that's not really good because you know we should all know better," she said.

When she finally did go, the news was cancer.

"They found many polyps, which at the time they thought were polyps which they found it was actually just one large tumor," she said.

Colon cancer is preventable if caught early when patients are not symptomatic.

But when symptoms appear, like in Konefal's case, that can mean the disease has progressed.

"There's no single symptom that says this is colon cancer, but weight loss, abdominal pain, blood in stools, change in bowel habits are on the list of things that could be associated with colon cancer," said Dr. David Weinberg, Chairman of Medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

For Konefal, she said she was thankful it was Stage 1.

"I was really, really lucky. I did not need chemo, I did not need radiation," she said.

Konefal went to Fox Chase Cancer Center for her surgery and genetic testing because it turns out that she has a family history.

"Nobody told me that my great grandmother had a colostomy bag and had colon cancer," she said.

The guidelines for screening are clear.

"Most groups suggest starting screening at the age of 50. Occasionally the recommendation is at 45," said Dr. Weinberg.

And don't put it off due to COVID-19.

"Just because Coronavirus is around doesn't mean you can't have a problem," he said.

"I know it's an easy excuse to procrastinate, not going there because of the current environment, but really nobody should put it off," said Konefal.

Konefal's doctor said her prognosis is very good with regular checkups.