Colon screenings may need to occur at younger age

Friday, September 12th 2008, 7:45 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- General guidelines say, when you're 50-years-old, you should get a colonoscopy. But there are exceptions to the rule.

One Oklahoma man who had his first screening at 21-years-old, found a polyp.

In the exam room at Oklahoma Surgicare, John Gillett underwent a colonoscopy. He's only 26-years-old. And this is his third time.

"By the time I'm 30, I will have had six of these, five, six of them," Gillett said.

Gillett has a family history of colon cancer. His father died from the illness. That's what's keeping Gillett on the preventative path that may have already made a difference.

It was five years ago when a polyp was detected and removed. With his family history in mind -- doctors say it could have turned into something life-threatening.

"There's a small sub set of the pop who has a significant increased risk for developing colon cancer," Dr. Chris Davis, a colorectal surgeon, said. "That's our patients who have a family history and who likely carry a gene that puts them at increased risk."

Doctors say, only about eight percent of people who've had colon cancer carry that gene. Gillett could be one of them. So for now -- they're keeping a close eye -- and screening him every two to three years.

So far -- he's cancer free and surrounded by family, who support the frequent screenings.

"The older he gets, the more frequent we'll have to scope him," Davis said.

Gillett is confident that if he sticks with it, he'll be fine. Because he has a very real understanding of what colon cancer could be -- a potentially deadly disease with few symptoms.

"Better do it, because if you don't, it doesn't matter what your age is, polyps build into cancer, it's a bad deal," Gillett said.

Colon cancer screenings are recommended at age 50.

If you have a family history of the disease, you're urged to start screening at age 40, or 10 years before the age of diagnosis of your youngest relative with colon cancer.