SCARSDALE - March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and a colon cancer survivor is encouraging everyone over 50 years old to get screened.
The American Cancer Society says 50,000 people die annually from colon cancer in the U.S., despite the fact that it's 90 percent treatable when detected early. Dr. Neville Bamji, a gastroenterologist with New York Gastroenterology Associates based in Scarsdale, says the best way to do that is with a colonoscopy, though he's found many of his patients are apprehensive about undergoing the procedure.
"It's hard for many people to overcome that stigma of consenting to an exam that requires this much work," says Bamji.
Patrick McAuliffe, one of Bamji's patients, is a colon cancer survivor. He says he waited until 57 to undergo a colonoscopy and only did so after developing a bacterial infection. During the exam, Bamji discovered a cancerous polyp and McAuliffe underwent surgery, where he had a third of his colon removed.
"If I had the colonoscopy earlier, they would have been able to get it when it was non-cancerous and that would have been the end of it," says McAuliffe, who is now cancer-free.
McAuliffe encourages everyone to get tested, calling the exams "a matter of life and death."