In our Health Alert tonight, a longtime local Detroit sports radio host has died.  Jamie Samuelsen passed away this weekend at the age of 48.  He hosted a weekday morning talk show on 97.1 The Ticket, where last week, he announced that he had been battling colon cancer for 19 months.  He is survived by his wife Christy McDonald, who at one time worked as an anchor and reporter here at WXYZ-TV, along with their three children.

First of all, my deepest condolences to Jamie’s family.  This is very sad news.  Jamie and his family have been amazing for the Detroit community.  He was genuinely kind, witty and a well-respected media personality.   When Jamie passed away on Saturday, he went peacefully and was surrounded by his loving family.  Unfortunately, I know all too well how devastating colon cancer can be.  It’s a senseless killer that I continue to diagnose far too often in my practice.  In fact, many people don’t know that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer.  And it’s also the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the United States.

Jamie Samuelsen was only 48, doesn’t that seem young for this type of cancer? 

People older than 50 tend to be diagnosed more often with colon cancer.  But let me be clear, you can get this cancer at any age.  In fact, the rates have been rising in younger people so much so that the American Cancer Society changed their screening guidelines.  They actually lowered the age to 45 for people who are at average risk.  And we know that if people get checked early, it can lead to saved lives.

How do screenings help?  And does everyone need a colonoscopy because I know some people are afraid of them?

I can’t stress how important regular screenings are.  They’re very powerful when it comes to preventing colon cancer.  And that’s because polyps can take 10 to 15 years to develop from abnormal cells into cancer.  So if you get screened regularly, polyps can be caught early and removed when they are small and easier to treat.  Now, there are several screening options.  Stool-based tests are very easy and they check feces for signs of cancer.  There’s also a CT colonography test.  What it does is takes pictures as the machine rotates around you while scanning the colon.  But if anything abnormal is found, then a colonoscopy would be recommended.  Now for those folks who are worried about colonoscopies, I can tell you as a Physician and Gastroenterologist, that I have done thousands of these procedures and overall colonoscopies are safe.  And if polyps or tumors are found, they are either removed on the spot if small enough, or a small piece is taken which is then sent off for testing.  I am very passionate when it comes to colon cancer.  I want this deadly cancer eradicated.  And everyone can do their part by getting screened.  So please, make an appointment with your family doctor to discuss colon cancer and prevention strategies.  It might just save your life.