Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women combined in our country – a fact that’s difficult to accept given that it’s one of a limited number of cancers that can be prevented through screening.
Guest Post: Take it from me, get your colonoscopy!
Amy Golder-Cooper is a dedicated volunteer advocate for ACS CAN in Pennsylvania, and a proud colorectal cancer survivor. After her courageous battle with the disease, she is determined to tell anyone who will listen about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer. I asked if she would share her inspiring story with my readers this National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Her story represents why we are working so hard to ensure all people have access to lifesaving, recommended colorectal cancer screenings at little or no cost.
My name is Amy Golder-Cooper, and I am 1 year post-surgery for colorectal cancer. Just before I turned 50, the irritable bowel symptoms that had recurred every so often for most of my life became more frequent. Seeing blood now and then didn't seem to be worrisome when I asked my doctor about it. I put off getting my first colonoscopy for a few months, but when my symptoms didn't improve, I scheduled my first colonoscopy 6 months after turning 50. Getting through the prep for exam wasn't too bad, and the exam itself was a breeze. Unfortunately, one of the first things that happened when I woke up was the doctor telling me he'd found a tumor the size of a lemon. For some reason, I wasn't really shocked, and maybe even relieved to have a reason for all the discomfort I'd had for so long. Unfortunately for me, through the follow-up testing, it was determined that what was originally thought to be a tumor in my colon extended into the transition area between the colon and rectum. This meant that instead of simple surgery, my case would require radiation with chemotherapy up front to shrink the tumor and lessen the impact to the rectal area. After surgery, I would also need another course of chemotherapy. Just thinking about the possibility of having a diagnosis a year earlier if I'd insisted on an early colonoscopy due to my symptoms makes me want to kick myself! I may have saved myself both the radiation treatments and the chemo, by far the worst part of the ordeal of my cancer journey. Dealing with an ileostomy after the surgery and having to go back to have it reversed was also inconvenient, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to forget it. I tell everyone who asks about colonoscopies to get them earlier, not later. I had no clue that cancer of the colon is usually curable with just surgery. The prospect of catching cancer before radiation and chemotherapy is necessary should be enough to help everyone overcome their fear of that possible cancer diagnosis, take it from me!
The American Cancer Society recommends colorectal cancer screening for all adults age 50 and older, and recommends adults at high-risk (e.g. family history, personal history of irritable bowel symptom, etc.) to begin screening at an earlier age.