Alec Gunn finished lunch and was heading to a grocery store near his home in Waynesboro, VA. Then the stomach pain hit.
After a CT scan and a colonoscopy, providers discovered that 46-year-old Alec had stage IV colon cancer.
“The news ... my wife almost fainted,” he remembers. “I was a healthy person. I worked out all the time and watched what I ate.” And, with the exception of an aunt who he lost to lung cancer, there was no family history.
Alec’s primary care provider referred him to UVA colorectal surgeon Charles Friel, MD.
“When I met Alec, Alec was just a regular, healthy looking young man with no obvious things wrong with him," says Friel. "And I think that's the scary part about colon cancer sometimes. It can be growing inside of you, and you're just not aware of what's happening.”
Care Closer to Home
Friel and hepatobiliary surgeon Victor Zaydfudim, MD, presented Alec’s case at a conference of surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists. Friel explains, “We came up with a comprehensive plan that was unique for Alec's situation. And we were able to work with our community provider, Nicholas Paphitis, MD, who is also a UVA affiliate, but closer to Alec's home. We were able to provide him with some chemotherapy in an environment that was more comfortable for him right near his own home.”
After the six successful rounds of chemotherapy, Friel and Zayfudim were able to remove the cancerous parts of his liver and colon.
“Our expectation is that Alec will be cured,” beams Friel. “He’s completely free of disease at this point.”
COLON CANCER SCREENING
Colon cancer is the #2 cause of death from cancer in the U.S.
Get Screened at 45
Having cared for younger, healthy patients like Alec, Friel can’t stress enough the importance of early screening. “With regard to screening for colon cancer, what we now know is that colorectal cancer is actually increasing in our younger population. And because of that, the screening age has recently been decreased to age 45.”
Alec agrees. “Don't let fear keep you from being screened. It could be found early. When it's found early and detected early, your chance of survival are much higher.”
Watch Alec’s story.