Siteman Cancer Center pushing for early screening for colorectal cancer

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 4:29 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and Siteman Cancer Center is encouraging more screenings to treat and possibly prevent the disease.

In October 2022, Chet Hunter learned he had stage three colorectal cancer.

“Cancer isn’t really about walking sick,” Hunter says. “It’s just about your body being sick.”

Hunter’s only 45 years old, seemingly healthy and showed no symptoms.

“I’m functioning,” Hunter says. “I’m going to work. I’m going home. I’m being a husband to my wife and to my children, a dad with little to no impacts even still today. I still struggle with the idea that I can have that type of a diagnosis with really no effects.”

A colonoscopy detected Hunter’s cancer. It was a procedure Hunter’s primary care physician encouraged him to undergo because of his age.

Within the last year and a half, Gastroenterologist Dr. Jean Wang with Siteman Cancer Center says the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening changed from 50 years old and up to starting at 45 years old.

“The numbers of younger people under the age of 55 getting colorectal cancer has nearly doubled over the last two decades,” Dr. Wang says.

Dr. Wang says even if you don’t have a family history of colorectal cancer, you could still be at risk.

In Hunter’s case, and most other patients, according to Dr. Wang, there is no family history.

Dr. Wang says this cancer is one of the most preventable.

“We can find and detect these pre-cancerous growths in the colon that are benign but have the potential to turn into colon or rectal cancer in the future,” Dr. Wang says. “If we find them during colonoscopy, we can actually remove them right then and there during the procedure.”

Hunter has done radiation therapy and will start chemo soon.

Dr. Wang says early stages of colorectal cancer don’t cause any symptoms. Later stages of the disease can lead to rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and changes to bowel movements.