Doc Talk: Colon Cancer

Doc Talk: Colon Cancer.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States and if it's caught early, doctors say it is curable.

Newschannel 3's Erica Mokay met with a man who was diagnosed with colon cancer and ended up being one of the lucky ones.

When Han Phommavongsa had a symptom, he had an excuse.

Phommavongsa said, “Same thing. Give myself an excuse, ‘You’re old now. You hit 50. No big deal,’ you know?”

Then he got really sick, ran out of excuses and ended up in the emergency room. That's when doctors found something.

Phommavongsa said, “And I think it was a thing. Oh, it's just a blockage. They'll just go in, maybe fix it and then after the doctor opened me up and it was more than just that. It was… You know.”

It was colon cancer.

At 52, he put his fate and faith in his doctor at Borgess.

Phommavongsa said, “When she said that, I think we got everything out for you. I think we got all the cancer out for you. Whatever it is we got it all out. That's right there when she said. I feel relieved I guess.”

Dr. Stephanie Markle, a trauma and general surgeon at Borgess, said, “Super lucky. It could have been a lot worse.”

Markle operated on Phommavongsa and she has treated a lot of patients just like him. Men and women, seemingly healthy, coming up with excuses and ignoring the subtle signs and symptoms.

Markle said, “There's about 700,000 people a year that still die from colon cancer and there's maybe one and a half million diagnoses. That’s a lot of people being diagnosed.”

She says this type of cancer is 100 percent curable with surgery, if it's caught at an early stage.

If diagnosed at stage one or two, the five-year survival is between 90 and 100 percent.

Phommavongsa was at stage two.

He said, “I’m very lucky I came out alive and I guess my wife tell me, 'You’re lucky' I said, ‘Yes, I am.’”

Phommavongsa says he still isn't 100 percent, but the husband and father is 100 percent thankful for life and all he has to live.

He said, “I was really lucky that we found it just in time.”

Phommavongsa had never been screened prior to his visit to the ER that day and that's why Markle stressing the importance of getting checked.

Men and women who are at normal risk should get a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50.

Markle and Phommavongsa said the prep is the worst part, but Markle says there's also a less invasive screening option that can be done at home.

For more information on that, talk to your doctor.

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