Understanding Colorectal Cancer
- Return to Amish star ‘Mama’ Mary Schmucker recently told fans she’s facing a battle with colon cancer. She also shared that she has surgery in a few days.
- 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 began.
- Colorectal cancer screenings have made a big difference in colorectal cancer prevention. But with colorectal cancer cases in younger people on the rise, the recommended age for beginning screening has been moved from 50 to 45.
Schmucker starred in multiple seasons of Breaking Amish – a reality TV series on TLC that debuted in 2012 and highlighted Amish and Mennonite ways of life in comparison to other lifestyles seen today. She was also featured in the show’s spin-off series, Return to Amish, though she is no longer a part of the show.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 private Facebook group on April 7.
And in a video on her Instagram page, Schmucker shared that she was on a trip home from DuBois, Pennsylvania, where she had a follow-up visit with a doctor. But despite the gravity of such an appointment, however, she still had a lighthearted attitude with her update.
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“I just thought id jump on here real quick and say hi because it’s such an awesome beautiful day today,” she said in the video. “I hope everybody’s having a good Friday today ’cause it is good today.”
In another more recent post, Schmucker wished her group members a good morning and gave a more specific timeline for her treatment.
“Countdown begins three more days till my surgery,” she wrote.
Thankfully, fans have been quick to offer Schmucker their virtual support ahead of treatment.
“You are in God’s hands and our prayers,” one Facebook user wrote in a comment to her countdown post. “We are trusting and believing our prayers will be answered.”
Understanding Colorectal 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 began.
Colorectal cancer, like all cancers, presents its own unique challenges for patients on the road to recovery. But Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist and colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, wants to remind people how far the treatment of 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,” Dr. Yeo says in a previous interview with 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.”
Colorectal cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, but these are possible symptoms to look out for:
- 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
It is important to note, however, that displaying some of these symptoms does not mean you have colorectal cancer. You could also have colon cancer and not display any of these symptoms. Regardless, it is important to bring up any symptoms to your doctor should they arise.
Dr. Yeo also emphasizes the importance of colorectal cancer screenings such as colonoscopies because most colorectal cancers can be prevented early with screening.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo says. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”
Even still, colorectal cancer cases are rising among younger people. And in the United States alone, rates have increased every year from 2011 to 2016 by 2 percent among people younger than 50. 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.
“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.”
And 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.
Research suggests that tailoring colon 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.