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Dr. Ross Knowles
Dr. Ross Knowles

Local surgeon stresses importance of colon cancer screenings starting at age 45

BUCKHANNON – St. Joseph’s Hospital welcomed a new surgeon in August.

On Tuesday, the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur on invited Dr. Ross Knowles to talk about the importance of cancer screenings during its bimonthly noon meeting.

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, second to heart disease, and colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the U.S., with lung being before that,” Knowles said. “The guidelines are forever changing as technology advances. Colorectal cancer is a killer because it’s often silent, and by the time you have symptoms, it’s often spread to the liver and the lungs, so it’s important to do routine screenings and start early.”

He said the American Cancer Association recommends starting screenings at age 45, which changed from the previous recommendation of 50 to 70.

“There’s a couple different ways to go about it – the current recommendation, from my perspective is you have to have a baseline screen so that would be your colonoscopies,” Knowles said. “There’s other types of screening: for example, there’s the Cologuard Colon Cancer Test, and it is something that’s fairly commonly used and you can use that as an adjunct, but what I’ve seen in my office is that sometimes these Cologuard tests are used in replacing a colonoscopy, and the data doesn’t necessarily support that.”

He said a colonoscopy is the most effective method to see precancerous polyps.

“Seeing is believing, so in a colonoscopy you can actually visualize a precancerous polyp and remove it, and then if you see that, you can place the patient in an appropriate screening algorithm,” Knowles said. “If you use a card, it’s not as effective at seeing those non-cancerous polyps that would increase someone’s need for screening.”

Knowles described himself as a rural surgeon, like Dr. Sue Long.

“I’ve always had a particular interest in becoming a rural surgeon. It’s not necessarily a common term to use, but it describes what Sue and I do,” Knowles said. “It’s a little bit of everything and in some centers time, sort of like Buckhannon, we are the specialists that cover everything else that the family medicine doc sort of runs through to the end of their knowledge base. For me, that includes upper and lower endoscopies and colonoscopies, any sort of sort of nausea, stomach issues we take care of Crohn’s patients and then all the cancer screenings of skin and soft tissue.”

Knowles said he has already treated a case of melanoma at his practice and he also treats the regular general surgery issues like lumps, bumps, hernias, gall bladders and colons.

“Treating all ages is important, too,” he said. “I’ve done hernias on infants and bleeds with Sue and then all the way up to elderly patients that are approaching 100. It’s a very rewarding practice here and the scope is what I was expecting in a small town.”

Learn more about Dr. Knowles’s background here.

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