The Silent Killer

What You Need to Know About Colon Cancer

Dr. Chris Eugenio has been caring for animals for 25 years and owns Fircrest Veterinary Hospital. Not only does he take excellent care of his patients, but he tries to take care of himself. Both his father and his uncle had colon cancer, and he knew that genetics may increase his odds of developing it, too.

“My father and uncle both had colon cancer, which prompted me to undergo my first colonoscopy when I was 46. Though I had several polyps removed at the time, the scan came back clean and didn’t show any signs of cancer,” Eugenio said. “On September 17, 2018, I had my second colonoscopy and expected another uneventful screening. After all, I was an active, healthy dad of two kids.”

He had a few minor symptoms, but nothing that concerned him. He felt great and didn’t have pain. However, he had colon cancer.

Dr. Shalini Kanneganti is a colon and rectal surgeon who was part of Eugenio’s team from CHI Franciscan Surgical Associates at Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center.

“Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, causing more than 50,000 deaths annually. That’s a staggering figure when you consider the disease is preventable with screenings, and curable if diagnosed in the early stages,” Kanneganti said.

Eugenio’s cancer was caught early thanks to his screenings. His treatment includes chemotherapy. He has been working at his veterinarian office while undergoing treatment.

“Working during my treatment definitely helped with my morale because it gave me a purpose and kept me focused on caring for others,” he said.

If you have family history of colon cancer, talk to your health care professional about getting early screenings, he said. “Colon cancer is the silent killer, because I felt great. I didn’t have symptoms, but my colon was in severe danger of rupturing. But because we caught this in time, I’m still here for my wife and kids.”

Q&A with Dr. Shalini Kanneganti 

How can I lower my risk?

“At CHI Franciscan we encourage our patients to live a Northwest Healthy lifestyle which focuses on eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough water and sleep.”

We’ve been told for most people, screenings should start at 50. Is this still the standard?

The American Cancer Society recently changed the recommended age for early colorectal cancer detection from 50 to 45 years olddue to a sharp increase in colorectal cancer cases among young men and women

What symptoms should not be ignored?

Symptoms that should not be ignored include changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea), blood in the stool, ongoing abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, weakness, and fatigue. People experiencing these symptoms are encouraged to see their physician. More importantly, colorectal cancer does not often present with symptoms, so if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if you are within the recommended age for early screenings, you should get checked, regardless of how healthy you feel.

Getting fiber in your diet is very important from fruits, veggies and whole grains. How much should we aim for?

To maintain a healthy diet, we recommend about 20-25 grams of fiber per day.

If you are falling short on fiber, is it OK to take things like Metamucil, Benefiber, or other supplements like that regularly, to get to more fiber?

Yes, if you lack fiber in your diet, it is okay to take supplements such as Metamucil and Benefiber.

There are advertisements about a new test where you can send a sample in. Is this OK for some people – is this a way to avoid a colonoscopy?

There are several tests for screening. There are stool based tests such as the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), and Multitarget Stool DNA Testing that require a visual examination of stool. If any stool-based tests are positive for colorectal cancer factors, this should be followed up with a colonoscopy. You should talk to your health care provider about which test is appropriate for you.

What else do you want people to know that we didn’t ask?

“I can’t emphasize enough that colon and rectal cancer is preventable, highly treatable, and often curable. Talk to your health care provider about screenings, which can save several lives, including yours and your loved ones.”

Learn more at cancer.org.

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is the editor in chief at South Sound magazine.
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