Dr. Oz Cancer Scare: "Dumb Luck...Saved My Life"

Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Jonathan Lapook talk about colon cancer.
Dr. Oz Show
Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Jonathan LaPook talk about colon cancer.
Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Jonathan LaPook talk about colon cancer. (Dr. Oz Show)

(CBS) Here's one thing to know about Dr. Mehmet Oz's recent colon cancer scare - he's damn lucky and he knows it.

"The only thing holding me back from a terrible outcome is the dumb luck that I checked myself out for the show," Oz told People magazine. "I would have put this off, like a lot of people. But I bet this saved my life."

Several weeks ago, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook performed a routine colonoscopy on the 50-year-old Oz. The procedure was filmed for Oz's daytime show.

LaPook didn't expect to find anything.

"He just might be the last person on earth people would expect to get a colon polyp," he wrote for CBSNews.com. "He's physically fit (he left me in the dust the last time we ran together), he eats a healthy diet, he doesn't smoke, and he has no family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps."

But LaPook found something he hoped not to see, "a small adenomatous polyp that had the potential to turn into cancer over time."

"Statistically, most small polyps like his don't become cancer," wrote Lapook. "But almost all colon cancers begin as benign polyps that gradually become malignant over about 10-15 years." 

Doctors can't determine which polyps will turn bad, so they usually take them all out.

"This was a shakeup for me," Oz told People. "It's frustrating. Why did this happen to me? It forces you to question the assumptions you make about life."

LaPook says colon cancer is scary - this year it will likely strike 143,000 Americans and kill over 51,000 - but there is good news in all of this.

"Patients who smoke, eat diets high in red and processed meats, drink too much alcohol, don't exercise, and are obese are at increased risk of colorectal cancer," he wrote. "So Mehmet's healthy lifestyle may actually have protected him from having a bigger polyp - or even colorectal cancer by now."

The key message?

Get checked, sooner rather than later, especially if you have a family history or are African American.

Getting a checkup might have saved Oz's life. It might save yours.

His colonoscopy will be part of the Sept. 7 season opener of the Dr. Oz Show.


Risk Factors

Getting Screened

Colorectal Cancer Facts


  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook