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Meritus patient’s early detection, colonoscopy saved his life

March 27, 2024 - Meritus Story

What you need to know about life-saving screenings, symptoms of colorectal cancer

Many of us hear advertisements during Colon Cancer Awareness month each March, or have heard a primary care provider suggest the often-dreaded colonoscopy as part of a wellness regimen. Despite the warnings and messages, many people don’t think they need to bother.

Eric Carbaugh was 49 when he decided he needed to take the warnings seriously.

His brother, who was 53 at the time, had a gall bladder surgery turn into the discovery of a tumor. He went through surgery and chemotherapy to treat the stage three cancer.

Around the same time, Carbaugh took a genetic test that determined he was predisposed to developing cancer.

And then there was a physical symptom he had been ignoring for about a year, blood in his stool.

Given the symptom, plus his brother’s experiences, he decided it was time to call in an expert. Dr. C.P. Choudari, a gastroenterologist who leads Meritus Hagerstown Gastroenterology scheduled a colonoscopy.

The test confirmed Carbaugh had rectal cancer. To save his life, his colon was removed. It’s a drastic step that many can avoid with regular screenings and earlier detection.

“If you have a change in bowel habits, if you have any bleeding, even if you think it’s a hemorrhoid, and it doesn’t go away, just get a colonoscopy,” Choudari said. “It can be life-saving.”

How often are colorectal cancer cases found in younger patients?

Early onset colorectal cancer now accounts for approximately 10 percent of all new diagnoses of the disease, Dr. Choudari said. And since 1994, cases of early onset colorectal cancer have increased by 51 percent.

In the next decade, it is estimated 25 percent of rectal cancers and 10 to 12 percent of colon cancers will be diagnosed in people younger than 50, he said.

Due to these statistics, screening recommendations have changed. It is now recommended that adults get their first coloscopy by age 45, unless they have family history or other risk factors that would begin their screenings earlier.

Choudari noted that only 15 to 20 percent of colorectal cancers found in those younger than 50 have family history or genetic predisposition.

“That means 80 percent are sporadic,” he said.

What is life like after colorectal cancer?

Carbaugh, a farmer, had surgery to remove the cancer on Oct. 5, 2021. While it is a serious surgery, he recovered well and is grateful to enjoy his life, with a positive prognosis.

“I am very, very active,” he said. “I don’t see any reason that I couldn’t live for a long length of time, into my 80s.”

But Carbaugh still laments not consulting a doctor as soon as he started seeing his own symptoms. He’s sharing his story so others will pay attention to awareness messages and recommendations from their physicians.

“My message to you is that regular colonoscopies need to be started before age 50,” he said. “And people need to pay attention to their own symptoms, especially blood in your stool. Don’t fool around.

“Just do what you’ve gotta do,” he said. “Life is going to be OK.”

To learn more about colorectal cancer or to schedule a colonoscopy, visit or call 240-513-7072.

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Chintamaneni Choudari, M.D.

Meritus Hagerstown Gastroenterology

Digestive Health