Curt Sankers 1 In July 2021, 54-year-old Curt Sanker went to Long Beach Medical Center for an overdue colonoscopy. He walked in feeling fine and had no symptoms prior to meeting with Dr. Jose Luis Aranez, interventional gastroenterologist at MemorialCare. During his colonoscopy, Dr. Aranez found a mass about 4 centimeters long in his colon. Curt was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Since cancer was not common in his family, it was devastating for Curt and his wife to hear the news. At his age, Curt had been concerned about his risk for prostate cancer more than anything else.

“For the last few years, I thought I was in good health,” says Curt. “It was an eye-opening surprise since I had no symptoms before arriving to my appointment.”

Many people don’t feel any symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. When they do appear, symptoms can look different for each patient depending on the size and the location of the cancer. Fortunately, doctors at Long Beach Medical Center were able to catch Curt’s cancer in its earliest stage giving him the best chance at a good outcome.

Dr. Aranez referred Curt to Dr. Nilesh Vora, who is an oncologist and medical director of the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. He is one of the many experts at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute who collaborate to create individualized treatment plans for each patient based on their unique needs.

After reviewing Curt’s case, Dr. Vora consulted with colorectal surgeon, Dr. Ayman Neoman. Because the cancer was caught early, they determined the best course of treatment would be surgery. While Curt waited for his surgery date, Dr. Vora went above and beyond by giving him all his contact information in case he had any questions.

“The communication and collaboration between my doctors was great,” says Curt. “I have never seen this happen and I was amazed by the high-level of service at Long Beach Medical Center. I felt comfortable knowing that I could call or email Dr. Vora whenever I needed to.”

In August, Dr. Neoman performed Curt’s surgery. During the operation, he removed 17 inches of Curt’s colon to prevent further spread of the cancer. Forty of Curt’s lymph nodes also were tested to confirm the cancer did not spread. The test showed that each lymph node was benign, and Curt’s surgery was a success – he was now cancer free. Curt spent several days in the hospital recovering. And just a few weeks after being discharged, he returned to work and was back to his normal routine.

Recently, Curt has shared his experience and the importance of regular colonoscopies with his loved ones. He has set a goal for himself and has reached a mark of convincing 60 people to make their
first appointment.

When I was going through this process, people felt bad for me and would ask me what they can do to help me feel better, I asked them to support me by encouraging them to go in for a screening as soon as possible.

- Curt Sanker

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States. Screening colonoscopy has been shown to reduce incidence and death by finding and removing precancerous growth before they turn into cancer – essentially preventing the disease.

“It’s wonderful that he has become such a huge advocate for colorectal cancer screenings,” says
Dr. Vora. “He tells all his friends and is grateful that he got the right help at Long Beach Medical Center.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults at average risk begin regular screenings at age 45. It’s important for people to discuss their family history and other risk factors with your doctor to determine if you need to be screened more frequently or earlier. If you need a referral to a primary care physician or gastroenterologist, use our online Find a Provider tool.