Doctors share signs of colon cancer and how to prevent it

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:58 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - With the recent news of Kirstie Alley’s death from colon cancer, doctors urge people at risk to get checked out.

The CDC recommends regular screenings starting at age 45, but if it runs in your family, you may need a colonoscopy sooner. A rule of thumb is to subtract ten years from the youngest diagnosis in the family and start regular colonoscopies by then, or no later than 45, whichever comes first.

“Colon and rectal cancer are actually very, very treatable when found early. The most important thing is screening colonoscopies before you get symptoms. We can take out polyps that have the potential to become cancer before they become cancerous,” Dr. Megan Nicolas, a Colorectal Surgeon at CoxHealth, explained.

Women are at a slightly lower risk than men of developing colon cancer. According to the group Fight Colorectal Cancer, about 1-in-23 men and 1-in-25 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with colon cancer.

The symptoms vary from person to person. Some may have no symptoms at all.

“Screening is huge, additionally not ignoring symptoms. Not all bleeding is hemorrhoids. Not all bloating/change in bowel habits is just you ate something funny. It’s really important that if you have any symptoms at all, you talk to your doctor and get checked out,” urged Dr. Nicolas.

Traci Prater, an Ozarks woman, got diagnosed with stage four colon cancer almost two years ago. She thought her first signs seemed normal as she had recently reached her 50s.

“I had next to no symptoms. I was getting full faster after I ate, I was having indigestion more, and I certainly wasn’t using the restroom as much as I should have. You should be going daily, and if you are not, get a colonoscopy,” Prater said.

After 11 surgeries, several rounds of chemotherapy, and her trust in God, she knows what her story means for someone else.

“It’s about telling everybody to get a colonoscopy. Save your own life because not one day will be like the other on the other side if you wait. Not one day will be glorious and happy because it will always be in your body, hanging over your head. When’s the next treatment? When’s the next this or that,” explained Prater.

The cancer in Prater’s body has fought against her and cost some of her organs and a lot of money. However, her faith remains stronger than ever.

“At 52, I don’t want to hear ‘what your best quality of life is? I want to live. I want to do things with other people. I want to go back to church. I want to go to my son’s senior year things. But it’s not safe because of the boat I’m in. So I’m going to row this boat until I’m all clear ‘cause Jesus is going to do that,” Prater said with tears in her eyes.

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