An acclaimed chef and father, Eric Schrader told an audience about how he defeated Stage 3 Colon Cancer at the age of 45 for Colon Cancer Awareness Week at Mount Sinai South Nassau on March 6. The hospital gave out additional information through other speakers and an interactive 10-foot high inflatable colon exhibit to raise awareness on colorectal cancer due to the rise of colon cancer rate in younger people.
“What Mount Sinai South Nassau provides is invaluable, I don’t know where I would be without their expertise, their assistance and their knowledge,” Schrader said. “They were there every step of the way, so I am so grateful for them,” he said.
Schrader’s journey started when he noticed blood in his bowel movements and had struggles with swallowing, which progressively became worse. He mentioned he initially started noticing symptoms after six months when he knew he had to go to see a doctor. His family Gastrointestinal doctor referred him to Mount Sinai South Nassau for a colonoscopy and endoscopy after hearing Schrader’s recount of symptoms.
“It was tough to hear,” said Schrader, “I even asked the doctor if he was sure and if he didn’t mix up the results because you never think to hear those words,” said Schrader in regard to the shock he felt when he received the unsettling and unexpected news.
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Colon Cancer is a malignant, cancerous, growth in the lining of the colon. Every year, an estimate of 140,000 Americans gets colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die from it.
Further testing was done on Schrader by Dr. Rajiv Datta, chair of the Department of Surgery and medical director of Mount Sinai South Nassau’s Gertrude & Louis Feil Cancer. Dr. Datta revealed a large tumor in his colon and Schrader was officially diagnosed with advanced stage 3C colon cancer.
Schrader had to go through chemotherapy. “Chemotherapy is the most difficult,” he started, “the side effects caused my fingertips and toes to have nerve damage as that is what unfortunately happens with chemotherapy.” After several years of battling the cancer, Schader said he has successfully beat colon cancer, but still lives in uncertainty that it may return.
“Every test has come back negative for six or seven years, but mentally it is challenging because you never know what could happen,” said Schrader.
Dr. Frank Gress, Leading Colon Expert, Chief of Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Medical Director of Center for Interventional Endoscopy, highlighted the importance of colon cancer advocacy.
“The main purpose of doing this every March is to support Colon Cancer screening,” said Dr. Gress. Gress identified the purpose of an interactive tour of an inflatable colon is to raise awareness so the people can see how polyp removal in the early stages can prevent all the after effects of colon cancer.
“Had I known to get screened early and detected the colon (abnormalities), I would not have had six surgeries,” Schrader said, “I would not have had eight chemotherapy sessions.”
The 20 feet long, 12 feet wide and 10 feet high interactive inflatable of a giant colon illustrated how colon cancer develops from every stage. Beginning with polyps and tears in the lining of the intestine to the spread of malignant cells. A polyp can be defined as a fleshy growth in the lining of the colon. Polyps are mainly discovered through colonoscopies and are commonly benign, non-cancerous, if found in the early stages.
Mount Sinai South Nassau strongly recommends screening for everyone, starting at age 45, as precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. If caught early, colorectal cancer has a 95 percent survival rate. The Mount Sinai Health System offers three types of colorectal cancer screening tests – Colonoscopy, Fecal Immunochemical Testing and Cologuard Testing.
“You have to still live your life and remain positive,” Schrader said. “It’s very easy to get caught up in the diagnosis, but cancer happens and there is hope after everything, there really is.”