Cedar Rapids colon cancer survivor is advocating for early screening

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, that's according to the American Cancer Society.

The organization estimates that this year, there will be at least 97,000 new cases.

Last year Kreg Tjelmeland decided to go in for his routine colonoscopy.

Tjelmeland started feeling signs in his body that something could be wrong but kept putting off seeing a doctor.

When his colonoscopy results came back he found out he had stage three colon cancer.

Now Tjelmeland has become a big advocate of letting others know the best way to prevent this type of cancer is to screen earlier rather than later.

"If you're 50 or you have the history in your family, you need to get in and don't be afraid of the process or the procedure because it really is not that big of a deal, you're better off knowing rather than just putting it off and then finding out later when things are worst," says Tjelmeland.

Doctors tell us the number one thing people can do is get screened for colon cancer.

Other factors to lower your risk include getting enough exercise, eating healthy, and not smoking.

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth in the lining of the colon or rectum.

These are called "polyps" which can sometimes turn into cancer over time.

Doctors say people should begin getting screened for colon cancer when they turn 50 and if you have a family history of cancer you should get screened even earlier.

"If there is a family history the symptoms that our cancer survivor talked about, blood in the stool, change in the stool, terms of the caliber, the size, weight loss that we can't explain, these are warnings that our bodies are telling us," says Dr. Ursula Livermore, Chief Medical Officer of the Eastern Iowa Health Center.

Doctors say if you're experiencing any of those symptoms, it's a good idea to see your doctor now.

There are a number of different screenings people can do from take-home test, DNA test, to even getting a colonoscopy.

They say these screenings can help catch cancer earlier which lead to better treatment options and outcomes for patients.

Tjelmeland underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment and finished his last chemotherapy session last September.

Today he's cancer-free and he's helping other colon cancer patients cope with their diagnoses since he's already gone through the process.