Learning about Colon Cancer
- ‘Mama’ Mary Schmucker will not be in the latest season of “Breaking Amish.” But fans can rest assured that the beloved matriarch is doing “all right” as she continues her battle with colon cancer.
- Colorectal cancer can describe cancers that begin in the colon or the rectum.
- Symptoms of colorectal cancer can include a change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation that lasts for more than a few days, a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, cramping or abdominal pain, and fatigue.
- The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 45, but if you have concerns about your risk you should talk to your doctor.
Mary starred in multiple seasons of “Breaking Amish” – a reality TV series on TLC that debuted in 2012 and highlighted young adults leaving their Amish and Mennonite ways of life to experience other lifestyles. She was also featured in the show’s spin-off series, “Return to Amish,” but she announced her official departure from the show in May 2022.Read More
“I just want to give a little update as you know I have colon cancer and I am scheduled for a surgery this month,” she wrote in her Facebook group on April 7, 2022.
According to a post from Mary’s daughter-in-law, Rebecca Schmucker, Mary had colon cancer surgery on April 22, 2022.
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“Mom had her colon surgery today and she’s recovering now,” Rebecca wrote. “Thank you everyone for the kind thoughts and prayers and messages! Y’all are so sweet and we really appreciate you! Ps this pic is not from today. If you want to she loves seeing messages on her Facebook and Instagram.”
But, sadly, Mary reportedly later discovered her cancer was “stage three cancer, almost stage four.” It’s unclear if she is currently undergoing chemotherapy or further treatment, but a post to her Facebook group that summer suggested she needed further surgery.
In a more recent update on Jan. 12, 2023, Rebecca revealed that Mary was doing “all right.”
“I hate speaking for mom because, ya know, her health is kind of day by day,” she said on Instagram live. “I feel like there’s some days where she feels okay, and there’s days that she doesn’t.”
But even during her cancer journey, Mary continues to interact with fans on social media. She consistently posts videos and hosts Instagram Live sessions with her knitting, showing off Tupperware, or spending time with her adorable grandchildren. And continuing to find the joy and simple pleasures in life are especially important for cancer survivors.
Learning About the “Return To Amish” Star’s Type of Cancer
The term colorectal cancer is used to describe cancers that begin in the colon or the rectum – so some people just use the term colon cancer if that’s where the disease originated.
Colon cancer, like all different types of cancer, has its own challenges for patients on the road to recovery. But Dr. Heather Yeo previously spoke with SurvivorNet about how far treatment for this disease has come.
“One of the most exciting things about my job is that we’ve made a lot of progress on treatment options,” the surgical oncologist/colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center told SurvivorNet. “However, patients are still — while they’re living longer, they are still living with colon cancer, and so I think it’s really important that we talk about how some of the things in your life affect you.”
Being Proactive About Your Colon Cancer Risk
In order to be proactive about your your colon cancer risk, it’s important to be aware of possible symptoms that could arise if you develop the disease. Colon cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, but possible signs to look out for include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Displaying one or more of these symptoms does not mean you necessarily have colorectal cancer. And you could also have the disease and not display any of these symptoms. Regardless, you should always bring up any concerning changes to your health with your doctor if they arise.
In addition to symptom knowledge, it’s crucial to prioritize recommended screenings.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo explained. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”
“You Shouldn’t Die From Embarrassment”: Colon Cancer Can Be Prevented
Still, colorectal cancer cases are rising among younger people.
“We know rates are increasing in young people, but it’s alarming to see how rapidly the whole patient population is shifting younger, despite shrinking numbers in the overall population,” said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of a recently published report in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians that outlines up-to-date- colorectal cancer statistics.
Because of this increase, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated its colorectal cancer screening recommendations to begin at age 45 instead of 50.
RELATED: New Research Shows More and More Young People Ages 20-39 Are Getting Late-Stage Colorectal Cancer; What’s Going On?
“We know that colon cancers can be prevented when polyps are found early,” Dr. Yeo said. “Lowering the screening age helps somewhat with this. But access to care is a real problem.”
Increasing access is crucial to making sure that we don’t see racial disparities within the world of colorectal cancer. Whites and Asians are significantly more likely to be up to date with their colonoscopies than African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.
RELATED: Why Do So Few Black Men Get Colon Cancer Screenings?
Research suggests that tailoring colorectal cancer screenings to each person’s individual risk may be beneficial. If you are not yet 45 but have concerns about your risk, talk to your doctor. Ask about your individual risk based on your lifestyle and family history and find out when screenings would be right for you.
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