Cancer Screenings Can Save Your Life
- Colon cancer survivor Melinda Cleckler, 59, is urging people to schedule their cancer screenings after delaying her own to care for family.
- Melinda had the procedure done at 50, her doctor found a polyp (a growth in the bowel lining) and told her to get screened again in five years. Unfortunately, she waited nine.
- SurvivorNet medical advisor Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon at Weill Cornell in New York, recommends that people at average risk of colon cancer start regular screening at age 45.
“I had my mom living with me—she was very sick, and that’s why I put the colonoscopy off for another five years,” Melinda said in an interview with Alabama-based WBMA-TV. “Please don’t put it off. Please keep your colonoscopy up to date.”Read More
Melinda had the procedure done at 50, her doctor found a polyp and told her to get screened again in five years. Unfortunately, she waited nine.
“If I had gone through when I was 55, I probably wouldn’t have had to gone through the treatments and all that I did,” she expressed.
Melinda says she had radiation and chemo. “The cancer had progressed to the muscle outside the colon,” she explained. She didn’t experience any symptoms. “God helped me push through it,” the family woman added.
With a sharp decline of screenings during the pandemic, it is vital for people like Melinda to share her story. As the news package suggested, cancer doesn’t sit back and wait for a pandemic to end. Take care of others, but also put yourself at the top of your list, so that you can continue to be their for your loved ones.
Understanding Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer affects your large intestine (colon) or the end of your intestine (rectum).
The cancer starts when abnormal lumps called polyps grow in the colon or rectum. If you don’t have these polyps removed, they can sometimes turn into cancer. It takes up to 10 years for a colon polyp to become full-blown cancer, so if you get the recommended screenings, then your doctor will have time to remove any polyps that form before they can cause problems.
SurvivorNet medical advisor Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon at Weill Cornell in New York, recommends that people at average risk of colon cancer start regular screening at age 45.
“Colon cancer is considered a silent and deadly killer, Dr. Yeo explained. “What happens is people often don’t know that they have colon cancer. They don’t have any symptoms. That’s why we screen for colon cancer in the United States.”
Dr. Yeo says that you should be screened for colon cancer, even if you have no family history.
“Once you have your initial screening colonoscopy, if there are no polyps and you have no high risk factors, usually once every 10 years is fine,” Dr. Yeo said. Colon cancer is a slowly progressing cancer.
If you do have family history of colon cancer, Dr. Yeo says that you should be screened about 10 years before your family member had colon cancer. “So if you have a family member that was 53, you should be screened at 43.”
You should also make sure that you have no other risk factors, like irritable bowel syndrome or lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol use or smoking, along with a potential genetic correlation. Talk to a genetic counselor or a colorectal surgeon to try to figure out whether you have a higher risk of having colon cancer.
Stages one through three colon cancers are cancers that haven’t spread far from the colon. Because of this, there’s the potential for a cure with surgical resection.
However, advanced stages of colon cancer aren’t always curable. But because there are so many treatment options available, the disease can often be managed.
IContributing reporting: Sydney Schaefer