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Colon cancer cases rise 30% in 2020 on Central Coast

Posted at 7:30 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 12:21:53-04

Colon cancer was the second deadliest cancer in 2020 according to the American Cancer Society, and March is colorectal cancer awareness month. One local healthcare professional explained to KSBY how serious this cancer can be if the right steps aren’t being taken.

“As Dr. Moeller was coming out during the colonoscopy, this is what he found,” said Doug Roewer, a clinical supervisor for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, while showing video of his colonoscopy on his computer monitor.

Roewer turned 40 in the last year, and his family has a history of polyps, which are abnormal growths in the colon that could contain precancerous tissue. The American Cancer Society recommends colonoscopies, for those with a family history, starting at the age of 40: A deadly disease that could be prevented by a simple procedure.

“If I had waited until I was 45, I don’t know if that would have been a polyp,” said Roewer pointing at the screen.

The colonoscopy results were sobering for the head of the gastroenterology program; the one polyp removed during the procedure had precancerous properties.

“A lot of people say after having a procedure performed, they somehow bought time. I don’t know if I bought time, but I’m very happy that preventative medicine exists, and I was able to prevent, potentially, from getting colon cancer,” said Roewer.

He might have bought time, but others who could be at risk are not by simply not utilizing preventative measures. Dr. Neal Moller, the Director of Gastroenterology at Sierra Vista, actually performed Roewer’s colonoscopy. Moller says Sierra Vista is seeing on average 1-2 new cases of colon cancer each week, but the Central Coast population still isn’t being screened enough.

“Normally, across the country, 60% of the population that needs to be screened are screened. Here, it’s around 40-45%, so we have a lot of work to do,” said Dr. Moller.

According to Dr. Moller, the Central Coast has seen a 30% increase in colon cancer over the last year.

“Screening for colon cancer can decrease that rate by about 80%, if everyone gets screened that’s supposed to be screened,” said Dr. Moller.

“I don’t know how I would explain it to my kids. I don’t know how I could explain it to my five-year-old, or my 10-year-old, I won’t be able to make it to their high school graduation,” said Roewer. “How do I tell my wife I have colon cancer when I could have prevented it?”

Those are hypotheticals, but for the 150,000 new colorectal cancer cases that pop up in the United States every year, those questions are ones that need to be answered.

“We can see almost everything in the colon in high definition scope. There’s almost no excuse to come in for preventative maintenance,” said Roewer. “I strongly encourage it. Whether you come to us or elsewhere, I hope you get the right care.”

To schedule a colonoscopy or preventative care against colorectal cancer, contact your primary care provider or local hospital.