Friday, February 22, 2008

Colo-Rectal Cancer Awareness

Most of the content of this is taken from a letter posted on I've edited it to make it appropriate to me and my experience, and got permission to repost it here, but I thought it was worth sharing.

March is National Colo-Rectal Cancer Awareness Month. Before I was
diagnosed, I always thought of this as an “old mans disease”. I have
since learned this is not the case. This type of cancer strikes both
men and women equally and although not the norm, can and does strike
people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. There are symptoms associated with
this cancer – in my case it was frequency and control issues and bright
red blood on the TP (sorry, nothing about this cancer is pretty). Other
symptoms can include but are not limited to any change in bowel
movements, narrow/pencil like bowel movements, abdominal pain and/or
bloating and blood in the stools to mention a few. That said, the most
common symptom is no symptoms at all
. In that regard, I guess I was
lucky in some respects.

But even with symptoms many people are afraid to get screened because
it’s embarrassing to discuss this type of stuff with anyone – even your
doctor. Another deterrent is that people think a colonoscopy is
embarrassing and painful. Well, it is embarrassing to discuss – and the
prep work for a colonoscopy isn’t a ton of fun – but the procedure
itself is completely painless. In fact as a friend of mine put it, it’s
like taking a nice little nap. You get great drugs – you don’t feel a
thing and it’s over with before you know it.

The American Cancer Society recommends all people – both men and
women get screened at the age of 50; earlier if you have a family
history of the disease and/or symptoms. It is recommended that if you have a history of colon cancer in your family, to get your first colonoscopy 10 years before the earliest diagnosis in your family. Some doctors will discuss these
things with you – others won’t, so you need to be proactive in
addressing this issue. Doctors make a big deal out of breast cancer and
screenings for women at the age of 40+ but too few discuss the risks of
colo-rectal cancer, even though it is the second leading cause of
cancer related deaths in the US, behind lung cancer.

Many of you have asked me what you can do to help me. Well….you can
take a very close look at your personal situation and that of your
family members and determine whether it is time for you to get a
colonoscopy. Your greatest gift to me, your friends and your family,
would be to get screened for this terrible disease. If you’re 30 years
old with no family history and/or symptoms then there is no reason to
get this done now. But what about your parents? And if you are 50+ and
have never had this done, please seriously consider having it done. If
you have no polyps, your next screening isn’t for another 5 years. And
if you do have polyps, removing them now before they turn cancerous can
save your life.

In closing, I never thought this would happen to me. I’m sure you
feel the same way. Sadly, bad things do happen to good people. Please
don’t let this happen to you, your friends or your family members. This
is one cancer than can be detected early and treated – but you have to
make that happen.

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