By Karin Fleming and Liz Madison, Vitals contributors
Recent data indicate that 12% of all colorectal cancer patients are now under the age of 50. It’s a startling trend that prompted the American Cancer Society and other volunteer healthcare organizations to recommend colorectal cancer screenings for those starting at age 45 instead of 50.
David Kondas supports the move. In 2019 at age 50, he had his first colonoscopy. A marathon runner, husband and father of two, Kondas was stunned when he received a stage 4 colorectal cancer diagnosis.
“Finding out I had advanced colon cancer was truly shocking,” he said. “I felt great. I had just completed a competitive running race and was busy with life. I couldn’t believe I was facing this disease with no warning.”
Kondas’ doctors carefully consulted with each other, determined to give him a fighting chance. They first recommended he undergo surgical removal of the tumor at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco—a part of Sutter Health’s network. It specializes in leading-edge surgical approaches, advanced diagnostics and cancer imaging technologies that were necessary given his diagnosis. Dr. Laurence Yee, a colorectal surgeon at CPMC, led one of the surgical teams that performed robotic-assisted surgery, which combines approaches commonly requiring two separate operations.
“Our teams are helping support recent advances in medical treatments and technologies that are bringing novel strategies for optimal, tailored treatment to our patients,” said Dr. Yee.
Kondas’ minimally invasive surgery helped keep his hospital stay to just five days. He was up and walking a mile after only four days at home. He was also able to begin chemotherapy closer to his home on the campus of Sutter Roseville Medical Center, in Roseville, Calif. He dutifully underwent chemo for the next six months to improve the likelihood of his cancer remaining in remission.
“Dave has the heart of a warrior,” said Dr. Kristie Bobolis, a clinical investigator, medical oncologist and hematologist at Sutter Roseville who helped care for Kondas. “It’s clear that he took the mindset of a competitor when he faced this adversary.”
Kondas has personally worked in health care for years. He explained that it was slightly surreal to sit on the other side as a patient.
“This experience has made me appreciate the compassionate, seamless and expert care I received in a whole new way,” he said.
Kondas focuses on having an attitude of gratitude as he and his care teams continue to manage his recovery. He also is committed to helping spread the word about doing everything it takes to help care for one’s self.
“Reflecting on this entire journey continues to bring me back to the importance of screening colonoscopies,” he said.
• One of the 149,500 Americans who are likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, according to American Cancer Society.
• From 2007-2017, deaths from colorectal cancer in those under age 55 increased 1% every year.
• This year the American Cancer Society officially recommends reducing the age to 45 from 50 for patients to get a colonoscopy and start regular screening.
• “Early diagnosis can be improved by keeping up to date with exams and office visits, and knowing your family history and risk factors,” says Dr. Bobolis. “Finding cancer early, when it’s small and hasn’t spread, often allows for more treatment options.”
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