At age 50, Gale Fritsche did something only two out of every three people his age do – and it ultimately saved his life.
He underwent a colonoscopy. It revealed stage 3 colon cancer, which had grown through the wall of his colon and spread to his lymph nodes.
“I had zero symptoms. I’d never smoked. I ate a healthy diet. I’ve always exercised,” says Fritsche, who has run the New York and Boston marathons and is also an avid cyclist. “The first thing that hit me was a fear of dying. I knew my odds for survival were decent, but it was always in the back of my mind.”
Fritsche, of Upper Macungie Township, is one of many people who notice no symptoms as the condition progresses. That’s one reason colon cancer screening is so important, says Fritsche’s hematologist oncologist, Usman Shah, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology.
“If you find the polyp before it is cancerous, it can be removed early, greatly decreasing the risk for cancer developing at all,” Shah says. And while a colonoscopy is now covered by insurers at no cost through the Affordable Care Act, people still put it off.