'Boston Med': Surviving Colon Cancer

One Year Later

Today, Alden is doing well after enduring his chemo regime and continuing to move forward with his life. He proposed to Paradise-McFee in April this year and the couple was married July 2, 2010, in a small wedding at their home.

"I've met an angel, and it's been wonderful," she said before their wedding. "He's my soul mate. We have a lot in common."

Surviving Colon Cancer

Alden continues to see Berger for follow-up colonoscopies and was recently diagnosed with diverticulitis, an inflammation on the wall of the colon, which Dr. Berger is now treating him for as well.

But that hasn't stopped Alden and his new wife from enjoying the things they love to do: golfing, gardening, shell fishing and even raising their 20 chickens.

"Before, I was thinking death," Alden said. "Now, I'm thinking living."

Are You at Risk?: When to get a Colonoscopy

Colon cancer is best prevented through diet, exercise, avoiding excessive alcohol intake and not smoking, but Berger stresses the importance of getting a colonoscopy screening, a test men and women should start scheduling after the age of 50.

"The best thing to do to prevent yourself from getting colon cancer is to have screening colonoscopies," Berger said. "Then you have a better chance of getting these tumors detected at an earlier stage."

Early-stage colon cancer referred to as Stage I means the cancer has not grown through the wall of the colon or the lymph nodes are negative. Stage II would be that the tumor grows through the intestinal wall but the lymph nodes are negative. Stage III, which Alden had, indicates that the lymph nodes are positive.

The final stage, Stage IV, indicates that not only are the lymph nodes positive but it has spread to other organs such as the liver or the lungs.

Your risk for colon cancer -- when you start your screenings and the number of screenings you will need in your lifetime -- can vary based on your lifestyle, family history and age.

Berger explained that someone who older than 50, with no risk factors and no family history of the disease, and who comes back with a clean colonoscopy, could wait 10 years before scheduling their next one.

On the other hand, "if there is a positive family history in someone that has colon cancer before the age of 50, so let's say your mother had cancer before the age of 50, we would recommend screening begin at 40," Berger said.

Colonoscopies Save Lives

You may also have a repeat colonoscopy every three years or even annually based on your family history and whether polyps are found in your colon.

Talk with your primary care physician to arrange a colonoscopy appointment with either a gastroenterologist or a surgeon, depending on your community.

The bottom line: "If people get regular colonoscopies, less people will die of colon cancer," Berger said.

For more information on colon cancer and colon cancer screening, visit the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy's website at http://www.screen4coloncancer.org.

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