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Royal Oak

Published March 6, 2013

Giant inflatable colon promotes Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Beaumont suggests screenings for those 50 years and older

» click to enlarge «
Dr. Harry Wasvary, left, and Southfield resident Marti Kay Carter look over a description of Crohn’s disease inside a giant inflatable colon that was on display Feb. 27 at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

ROYAL OAK — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Beaumont Hospital kicked it off with a bang, allowing patrons to walk through a giant inflatable colon last week.

On display Feb. 27-March 1, the giant colon provided an educational backdrop for several colon-related diseases, but specifically on colon cancer.

“March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re very much promoting screening for a colonoscopy,” said Dr. Harry Wasvary, director of the Colorectal Multidisciplinary Tumor Clinic at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. “This is the most support we’ve gotten from the hospital.

“If you have bleeding, change of bowel habits, weight loss you can’t account for, you need to come in. We’re looking for the polyps, because small polyps become larger polyps. About one-third of all people have polyps growing in them.”

Wasvary said polyps are not always cancerous, but their removal is recommended to be better safe than sorry.

“About one in 15 will develop colon cancer in their lifetime,” Wasvary said. “The most important thing is check your birth date. We’re really proactive.”

The recommended age to get checked for colon cancer is 50. However, Wasvary said there are some situations that move the necessary check-up age sooner.

“The African-American population, there’s a higher risk and we recommend you bring it down five to 10 years,” Wasvary said. “Or if you have a family history. We start 10 years younger than the person who had it.

“Ten percent of all people coming to us with a cancer are under age 50. Almost 40 percent don’t come till after age 75.”

Wasvary said bleeding is the most common indicator, bringing about 30 percent of colon cancer patients to Beaumont. Another 20-30 percent have family histories, with the rest finding out during routine screenings.

Southfield resident Marti Kay Carter, 54, found out she had colorectal cancer at age 49, and it was already in the third stage. A personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness by day, Carter said she ate healthy and figured out something was wrong when her bowel movements went from 6-12 inches two or three times per day down to once per week. She visited her gynecologist, who recommended she get a colonoscopy.

“Somewhere along there, I fell off the wagon,” Carter said. “I wasn’t having any more bowl movements or even passing gas.”

Diagnosed with cancer on a Thursday in March 2008, she had surgery four days later, which was followed by chemotherapy, 33 rounds of radiation and three more months of chemo.

“Once you do chemo and radiation, there’s always other things going wrong,” Carter said. “It’s better to just go get tested. It’s kind of important that people do get screened.

“From what I understand, everybody’s got some sort of cancer floating through their body, but it’s just whether these cancer-fighting agents are turned on or not.”

Wasvary said a colonoscopy screening decreases the mortality rate from the cancer, if any is found.

Carter also recommended a Lynch syndrome blood test for genetic issues, as well as a CEA level — which stands for carcinoembryonic antigen — to determine if there’s any cancer in an individual’s system.

“The CEA levels become the marker for if there’s recurrent cancer,” Carter said, noting CEA levels should be between zero and five to be cancer-free. “I think diet is really important for people. Eating these fat foods and processed food is really not good for you. I think (chronic) stress kind of adds to it.”

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