July 2, 2022



Man, 39, who blamed stomach problems on ice cream had precancerous growth

4 min read

A 39-year-old man who dismissed having an upset stomach after eating ice cream as lactose intolerance has spoken of his shock at having a precancerous growth in his colon.

Dan Gut noticed that his bowel habits had changed and blood was appearing in his stool, but didn’t flag the symptoms to his doctor for 18 months. The father of five noted this often happened after he ate ice cream, and assumed he was lactose intolerant.

He told Newsweek via email he decided to see a doctor when he wasn’t getting better and his wife encouraged him after he shared his symptoms.

Gut said in a statement: “I hadn’t dealt with anything like what I was experiencing, and I didn’t want to deal with it.

“I felt healthy and was busy living my life, like a typical guy. Given the responsibilities I have with my family, getting checked out was something I should have done right away.”

Dan Gut pictured in hospital on the left, and with his family on the right.
Cleveland Clinic

A colonoscopy revealed he had more than 100 growths known as polyps and an advanced precancerous growth in his colon called an intramucosal carcinoma. It is common for colorectal cancer to start as a polyp in the colon or rectum, and removing them can prevent the disease from developing.

Gut told Newsweek: “The doctor said that I have a 100 percent chance of these polyps turning into cancer. They didn’t how many, when or how fast they would/could move from the colon to other parts.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer, with an estimated 149,500 people in the U.S. diagnosed in 2021, and 52,980 people dying that year. It is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the country.

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Colorectal cancer is more common in men than women, and in those who are African American. Most people with the disease are diagnosed at 67 years of age, with only 4.6 percent at Gut’s age.

Due to the seriousness of the situation, doctors advised Gut to have his colon removed. He was also diagnosed with celiac disease, which requires him to eat a gluten-free diet.

Gut said: “I have an amazing wife and five wonderful kids that depend on me for so many things. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to provide those things for them. But I also tried to stay strong and not let my worry show so my wife and kids wouldn’t worry even more.”

Dr. David Liska, a colorectal surgeon and director of Cleveland Clinic’s Weiss Center for Hereditary Colorectal Neoplasia and Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center, said in a statement: “A lot of people who experience blood in their stool or changes in their bowel habits will attribute it to hemorrhoids. However, in some cases, it can be cancer.

“If Dan had waited much longer, he most likely would have gotten cancer that could have spread to other organs.”

Liska said: “It’s important to know your family history, because that could put you at higher risk for colorectal cancer. Colorectal polyps or cancer can occur without symptoms. That hereditary information could be your only clue to prompt an earlier colonoscopy that can prevent the development of cancer.”

Dan Gut, who has five children, said he became worried about his condition when he realized he may not be able to provide for them if he is sick.
Cleveland Clinic

Following his surgery Gut said he feels great and is able to live normally again. He also has more energy and uses the bathroom less frequently.

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After his experience, Gut said he’s “not rushing to the doctor at the first sign of anything” but would be more likely to get checked out if something doesn’t seem right for more than a few weeks.

“Things like this can happen to anyone, no matter how healthy you are. So it’s wrong of me to think I am invincible or that I am healthy so nothing is going to be wrong until I’m old,” he said.

Gut is not alone in avoiding the doctor. A 2019 Cleveland Clinic survey found around two thirds of men wait as long as possible before seeing their doctor if they are experiencing health symptoms or an injury, particularly if they are aged between 35 to 54. The survey also found almost three quarters of men would rather do chores than go to the doctor.

Diana Sanchez, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University who has studied why men avoid the doctor, told The Washington Post it is because they are “socialized to follow masculinity rules from a very early age.” This can include seeing illness or asking for help as a sign of weakness.

Gut said: “It’s important to know, especially for men, that it’s OK to see your doctor. It’s OK to share your negative health situation or symptoms because everything is treated easier and quicker when it’s [caught] early.”

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