SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Orcutt resident Thomas Puerling was having a colonoscopy when doctors diagnosed him with rectal cancer.
"Basically they found polyps the first time and they said have a follow up in five years, which I did, but that's when Dr. Jahnke found it," Puerling explains.
After some tests, he diagnosed with rectal cancer.
"I would say we were shocked because you don't really expect it," says Thomas's wife Patricia.
During a colonoscopy, doctors can find polyps at their earliest stages.
Doctor Igor Nastaskin, a Gastroenterologist at Marian Regional Medical Center says these types of screenings are so important because by the time you see symptoms, the cancer has greatly progressed.
"At the later stages it's much harder to treat; it could be often times completely incurable," says Dr. Nastaskin.
While there are colon screening options that don't include colonoscopies, Dr. Nastaskin says colonoscopies are the most reliable.
"It allows two things: one it allows director visualization of the entire colon and second, it allows the removal of pre-cancerous growth called polyps at the same time," he explains.
And they're not as scary as people think.
"For a colonoscopy it's a lot different than it used to be and I imagine they're going to improve it even more as time goes on. My son just had his first one and he said it's a piece of cake," Puerling says.
Doctors recommend people age 50 or old to do some type of colon screening as colon cancer is still one of the three most common types of cancer in the U.S.
"We are able to prevent colon cancer right there on the spot and possibly save a patient's life," Dr. Nastaskin says.
Lives like Thomas Puerling's, who is now cancer free. "Here I am.. thanks be to god," says Puerling.
If you'd like to learn more about colorectal cancer, Mission Hope Cancer Center is hosting a free presentation Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Click here for more information.