CRCA awareness

Transforming Trepidation: A Medtech Leader’s Colonoscopy Experience

You think I’d know better. This is what I do every day. When I’m away from my family, I’m traveling and I’m seeing colonoscopies and procedures that are meant to find or prevent cancer, and yet here I was, ignoring my life.”

Kurt Cannon has worked at Olympus Corporation of the Americas for three years and has been in the endoscopy business for 20 years. He is currently serving as Olympus’ Vice President of Marketing for Endoscopy. With March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Kurt offered to share his recent colonoscopy experience, not only to help raise awareness of the recommended screening age of 45 and the value in knowing your family history, but to acknowledge his own regret about being less than proactive when it came to his health. 

“I’ve seen thousands of colonoscopies,” Kurt emphasized. “Thousands of them. I know exactly what is likely to happen and what is less likely to happen. I understand the anesthesia part of it, and I understand the preparation part of it.” And yet, he added, “I convinced myself for all the wrong reasons that I didn't need to go.”

Regardless of profession or years in the industry, Kurt sensed other emotions at play that were clouding his judgment. It’s not uncommon for people to postpone their colonoscopy for various reasons, but eventually they find the motivation to do it. For Kurt, at 49, it was the discovery of a family history of colorectal cancer that made a seemingly obvious decision a complicated one. 

Unraveling Family Ties

“My father died when I was 2, so I never knew him,” Kurt said. “My grandfather died before I really knew him.” It wasn’t until years after his grandfather had died that Kurt reconnected with his father’s side of the family and learned that his grandfather had passed away from colorectal cancer.

“If you don’t know your family history and you don’t have access to it, then you should probably go [get a colonoscopy] at 45 like the new recommendations say,” he prefaced, and explained that if your family is alive and you still don’t know your family history, it is extremely important to ask the uncomfortable questions and have the uncomfortable conversations. Not everyone is comfortable sharing their personal medical histories, but that knowledge may save a life. “I would just say you’ve got to press for the information. It’s too important.”

This is just one of the reasons why Kurt and his wife have chosen to be completely transparent with their three children. 

The Cannons

Kurt and his wife of almost 27 years, Alana, at an event to benefit the Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute.

“My kids now know everything that I’ve [discovered]. They know everything about my history, [and] they know everything about my wife’s history,” Kurt shared. “We have never really kept anything from our kids, but the whole story of why I didn’t get a colonoscopy and then why I ended up getting one, they absolutely know that story. I wasn’t proud that I delayed … and why I waited, but I also wasn’t going to hold that from them because I want them to understand that those thoughts in my head weren’t OK.” He hopes the transparency will help to inspire more proactive health screenings for his children, when the time comes. 

“I waited two more years [to schedule my colonoscopy], even though I knew I had a family history of colorectal cancer,” Kurt sighed. 


On left: Kurt’s children, (from back left) Averi, Kole, and (front center) Tate.
On right: The family dog, Ember.

The Fear Behind Procrastination

So why did Kurt wait, knowing what he knows? 

"I convinced myself for the wrong reasons that I didn’t need to go.  Ultimately, it was just the fear of it, the unknown, the idea that I could just ignore it because I felt healthy,” he said. “It was my wife who saw the reminder come through the health portal [app]. She called me out. She said, ‘How would you feel if I didn’t go for my mammography every year?’ and I didn’t really have an answer. I knew how I’d feel, and she knew how I’d feel.” 

Kurt was 51 when he went for his first colonoscopy, six years past the recommended screening age of 45. Regardless of his profession, everything he has learned while being in the medical technology industry was not enough to motivate him to schedule his procedure.

“Most people know why they’re [pushing off] their colonoscopy,” he noted. “They know it’s not reasonable, but they justify it. I’m too busy. I’ve said that to my wife a million times. I don’t have time. I’m traveling. Work this – kids that. But when I thought about it … the reality is I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for my wife, my kids, so that nothing happens to me” that’s preventable, he explained. “That would devastate my family.” 

Kurt said he had to look himself in the mirror and gut check what was “ultimately and completely irrational thought” and go get the colonoscopy. 

The Physician’s Adenoma Detection Rate

In typical Kurt fashion, once he made his decision, he put his VP of Marketing hat on and dug into the facts. During Kurt’s initial consultation for his colonoscopy, he made certain to inquire about the physician at the facility with the highest adenoma detection rate (ADR). 

“Every GI physician in the [United States] who does an endoscopy has an ADR, which is an indicator of how often they find adenomas, which is somewhat of a proxy for how well [physicians] look as they’re coming out of the colon, how well they are scanning, stopping, and finding [precancerous polyps],” Kurt elaborated. “It used to be all about speed – how quickly they can get it done because then you could do more procedures, but having ADR be a factor as a quality metric really forces [physicians] to spend the time to observe everything.”

Booking the physician with the highest ADR was a critical step for Kurt. It also reassured him to learn that the facility would be using Olympus® equipment with NBI technology

Despite Kurt’s initial stress over the steps of the procedure, he even found the colonoscopy prep cocktail was manageable.

It’s simple. You build it up in your head to be so awful – the entire process – the prep, the procedure, the waking up from the procedure… I will tell you it was the best nap I’ve ever had.”

“It’s simple. You build it up in your head to be so awful – the entire process – the prep, the procedure, the waking up from the procedure… I will tell you it was the best nap I’ve ever had,” Kurt smiled. “When you wake up, it’s over, and no matter what you went through to have the procedure, it is better than the treatment for cancer.”

Kurt explained that after the procedure, he was able to share a sigh of relief with his wife that everything was okay. “They did find an adenoma, which puts me on the five-year repeat visit, but it was small,” and easy to remove, he was told. 

A Preventable Burden

Kurt never expected to be the person that had to justify why he waited to get his colonoscopy, but he’s not hesitant to admit, “You’d think I’d know better.” As a veteran leader for a medtech company, he is committed to Olympus’ mission to making people’s lives healthier, safer, and more fulfilling. With his professional life rooted in GI endoscopy, he has a profound understanding that the global burden of colorectal cancer is expected to increase by 60%, or more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.1 million deaths, by 2030.1 

“There is a lot of cancer out there and lot of disease that you can’t predict or prevent,” he stressed. “There’s a reason [colonoscopy] is the gold standard. If you get a colonoscopy at the recommended age, it is capable of preventing [colorectal cancer].”

He explained how in “our 20s and 30s, maybe even our 40s,” many believe that we are “invincible, that nothing can touch us,” but about 10% of colorectal cancer cases in the U.S. are diagnosed in people under 50 and these numbers are rising about 1-2% each year.2

“Colon cancer is affecting younger and younger people,” Kurt stated, “And while the screening age is now down to 45, I think people need to pay attention to their bodies, to the symptoms.” Don’t pass off something as potentially normal if it isn’t normal for you, he warned. “In your 30s, you’re not too young to have early onset colorectal cancer. That’s a real and unfortunate reality, but again, it’s completely preventable.” 

Learn more about colonoscopies and colorectal cancer


  1. Arnold M, Sierra MS, Laversanne M, et al. Global patterns and trends in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality. Gut. 2017;66(4):683-691.
  2. Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Colorectal cancer facts and statistics. Accessed February 2022.
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