This morning, “Today Show” co-host Craig Melvin was given the morning off after a staffer at the NBC morning show tested positive for the coronavirus. There’s no word yet on whether Melvin, or Al Roker, who was also given the morning off, were exposed to the virus. The scare comes less than a week after SurvivorNet stopped by Melvin’s office to discuss another health-related cause that’s near and dear to his heart — colon cancer awareness.
Melvin’s brother is a colon cancer survivor, and was diagnosed at stage 4.Read More
“Colon cancer, for a long time, in fact, I would contend until fairly recently, was thought of as an elderly person’s disease,” Melvin tells SurvivorNet. “We’ve seen a steady decline in colorectal cancer cases overall over the past decade or so. But over that same time period, we have seen an annual increase — somewhere between 1.5 and 2% every year — of cases of colon cancer under the age of 45.”
“But if you get screened, if you listen to your body, it is also, arguably, the most treatable cancer as well,” he adds.
Melvin points out an important statistic — overall, the rate of colon cancer is on a decline, in every age group except adults under age 50.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, colorectal cancer surgeon Dr. Heather Yeo, who works at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, explained that the reason for the decline in adults over 50 is because more people are getting screened with colonoscopies these days. However, doctors aren’t sure what exactly is causing the increase in younger adults.
Dr. Heather Yeo discusses the possible causes behind the spike in colon cancer rates among adults under age 50.
“We don’t known exactly why it’s increasing. It’s a different type of cancer,” Dr. Yeo said. “The colon cancers that are in the younger age group are more likely to be on the left side, they’re more likely to be rectal cancers, they are more likely to be aggressive tumor types. We don’t really know … it may be something environmental.”
Dr. Yeo’s advice for those who fall into the younger adult category is to be proactive — and be aware of your risk so you can begin screening if necessary.
“I think it’s really important for patients to think about their risk factors and not to ignore symptoms,” she said.
‘You Shouldn’t Die From Embarrassment’
Risk factors would be things like a family history of colon cancer, as well as lifestyle factors like smoking or obesity. As Melvin, as well as the many, many experts SurvivorNet has consulted about the topic point out — colon cancer is extremely preventable with screening.
Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai, told SurvivorNet that the reasons people are still dying from a disease like colon cancer mostly involve people being unaware or too embarrassed to discuss symptoms that would warrant testing.
Dr. Zuri Murrell urges patients to be aware of colon cancer screening guidelines, and to speak up about symptoms.
“I tell [my patients] that you shouldn’t die from fear, and you shouldn’t die from embarrassment — and that’s really the only two reasons that people are dying from this disease today,” Dr. Murrell said.
He added that colon cancer awareness and prevention is a “toilet conversation that needs to come to the dinner table,” meaning if you’re experiencing symptoms such as changes in bowel movements — you shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk to a doctor about it.