"The rationale many people use to not be screened for colon cancer is that it's inconvenient. Please get past that. It is not worth your life."
As the host of the monthly Berkshire Health Program on Pittsfield Community Television, Dr. Ed Hornstein has regularly featured fellow physicians promoting screening and prevention. Colon cancer prevention through screening colonoscopy has been a subject on the show a number of times.
Following a period of abdominal discomfort and rectal bleeding, Dr. Hornstein underwent medical tests to determine the cause, all along thinking it was likely hemorrhoids or another non-critical problem. In March of 2008, after undergoing a colonoscopy, he was told he had a nearly three-inch mass in his colon. Dr. Hornstein had colon cancer, and began a long and difficult journey that today, though he is now cancer-free, resonates in every aspect of his life.
"The feeling you have with the diagnosis of cancer is hard to explain to someone who has never had it," Dr. Hornstein said. "It's a part of your every waking thought. It becomes your life."
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy came first, followed by surgery to remove the section of colon with the tumor, another round of chemotherapy, and finally surgery to restore normal colon function. The ordeal lasted the better part of 2008. He had the majority of his treatment in the Berkshires, through BMC and Berkshire Hematology Oncology, leaving the area only for a highly specialized surgical procedure due to the location of the tumor. "I could have gone anywhere. I stayed here not because it was convenient, but because we have the best care here in every area. At BMC, the physicians, nurses, radiation oncology staff, radiology technologists, OR staff, they are just absolutely great. The doctors and staff of Berkshire Hematology Oncology, I couldn't have found better care anywhere."
With Dr. Hornstein's experience came the glaringly bright recognition that screening colonoscopy saves lives. He was 48 when diagnosed, two years away from his own expected first screening colonoscopy, but his diagnosis led to his two younger brothers being screened well before their 50th birthdays. Both had multiple polyps and now know they are at a higher than normal risk for colon cancer.
"The rationale many people use to not be screened is it's inconvenient. Please get past that. It is not worth your life," said Dr. Hornstein. "Have your colonoscopy. Have your annual mammogram. Have your prostate exam. Many cancers are curable and highly treatable if you catch them early, and with colon cancer, if you have polyps that are pre-cancerous and removed, you've prevented colon cancer. Early detection, early screening makes all the difference in the world."
Dr. Hornstein said his transforming experience has left him even more appreciative of the level of medical care available in the Berkshires. "I've trained at some of the best medical institutions in the country. I can tell you, we have an excellent hospital in Berkshire Medical Center."
Learn more about the importance of screening colonoscopy in preventing colon cancer. You can schedule your own screening colonoscopy through our Direct and Open Access Program. Call Berkshire Medical Center at 413-395-7606 or Fairview Hospital at 413-854-9616.