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During Colon Cancer Awareness Month survivor shares his story

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 6:43 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Last year, more than 140,000 new cases of colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, were reported in the U.S.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. The CDC reports about one-third of adults in the United States are not up-to-date with their colon screenings.

Dr. Bhavya Akhauri, a gastroenterologist with Mercy Medical Center, said you can’t say this about every cancer, but colon cancer is detectable, preventable, and curable with the right steps.

She said some growths in the colon can take years to turn cancerous, so getting checked early is key.

Dr. Akhauri said they can remove a polyp, or growth, at an early stage before it turns cancerous or causes any harm.

On an alarming note, she said routine colon screenings have plummeted during the pandemic.

“Data shows that the screening rates dropped almost around 80 to 90 percent last year. We are going to see definitely an increased number of cancer diagnoses as well as deaths related to this, unfortunately,” she said.

She said recent studies suggest getting colonoscopy at the age of 45 instead of 50. Dr. Akhauri also mentioned that people with a family history of colon cancer should get checked sooner.

69-year-old Patrick Swift got his first colonoscopy this past summer when a cancerous tumor was found.

Since the tumor was detected early, Patrick was able to get it surgically removed and is now cancer free.

“Buck up and get it done,” Swift said. “That’s kind of where I am at with it. If they tell me I need one every year to keep checking, then I’ll have one every year to keep checking. It kind of woke me up to the whole thing because you never think anything like this would happen, but it does.”

Swift said he always put the screening off because it seems like a hassle. Now, he’s ready to get one every year to make sure he stays cancer free.

Swift said his experience also prompted his sons to get their first colonoscopies. He thanks his doctors and wife for getting him through the difficult time.

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