Be Seen, Get Screened's Physician Spotlight Q&A series highlights the work of health care professionals on the front line in the fight against colon cancer. In our latest Q&A, we talked to Dr. David Lotsoff, a gastroenterologist for Mercy practicing at several St. Louis-area clinics.
BSGS: Tell us a bit about your professional background and any experience you have with colorectal cancer screening and/or treatment.
Dr. Lotsoff: I am a gastroenterologist. I have been in practice for 11 years, and I perform colonoscopies to detect and remove colon polyps. Some colon polyps are called adenomas. These types of polyps can grow to become cancer, so removing these polyps helps to prevent colon cancer.
BSGS: What do you say to patients who are hesitant to get screened for colorectal cancer?
Dr. Lotsoff: Colon cancer is one of the only types of cancer that you can find before it even reaches the cancerous stage. Think about that. Almost all other cancers are dealt with once they are already there! Colon cancer screening can catch a premalignant lesion so that we can deal with it before it becomes dangerous.
It’s also important to realize how urgent it is to catch a colon cancer early. Over 90% of colon cancer patients who were diagnosed at a local stage survived more than five years where only 13% diagnosed at an advanced stage survive more than five years.
BSGS: What are some common objections to colorectal cancer screening? How do you address them?
- “I’m afraid of what you might find.” – If I find polyps, I can remove them before they become cancer. If I find cancer, you have a better prognosis if it is found earlier as opposed to when you wait until you are having symptoms.
- “I’m not having any symptoms.” – Don’t wait until you have concerning symptoms to undergo screening for colon cancer. By then it may be too late.
- “I’m embarrassed.” – Don’t embarrass yourself to death!
- “I don’t want to take the colon preparation the night before my colonoscopy.” – I’ve done it. It isn’t so bad.
BSGS: Besides screening, what do you recommend to patients in order to lower their cancer risk?
Dr. Lotsoff: Stop smoking!
BSGS: Why do you think it is important for adults to be educated on the risk factors and importance of screening for colorectal cancer?
Dr. Lotsoff: Most people should undergo screening for colon cancer at age 50, but some should be screened sooner. Patients should let their physician know if they have a family history of colon cancer or precancerous colon polyps.
Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Many of these cancers could have been prevented with recommended screening.
BSGS: What is one thing everyone should know about colorectal cancer screening?
Dr. Lotsoff: Colon cancer screening saves lives. That is the most important thing to know. When polyps are removed, they cannot grow up to become colon cancer. When colon cancer is detected and dealt with early, it dramatically increases your chance of survival compared to when it is detected at an advanced stage.