TODAY   |  March 07, 2014

Survivor: ‘There’s hope’ to beat colon cancer

A group of colon cancer survivors share how they’ve fought the deadly disease through treatment, and encourage others facing similar challenges. Gastroenterologist Dr. Mark Pochapin says some cases are hereditary, but for most people the disease comes unexpectedly.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, but chances for treatment improve greatly when it is detected early.

>> since march is colon cancer awareness month, we gathered a group of survivor to share their stories of treatment and survival.

>> i'm a female, african-american, i didn't fit the quote/unquote profile.

>> i was diagnosed with colon cancer at 45.

>> i was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 17.

>> you think it happens to other people.

>> the first symptom i noticed was a blood discharge when i went to the bathroom.

>> we thought it was hemorrhoids for someone my age, colon cancer wasn't on anyone's radar.

>> i did not have any classic symptoms of bleeding or throwing up or anything in my stool.

>> i had one day where i had a loose stool, next day, a hard stool.

>> there was a mass the size of a lemon that they found in my colon. so we quickly decided to have it removed.

>> yes, there is hope. and, yes, i will find treatment.

>> they did chemo and radiation for me and so it was pretty brutal, six months.

>> i'm currently on chemo therapy treatments every two weeks. and i keep going.

>> i talk to everybody i can. i tell everybody. have you got screened? have you got your blood checked? what are you waiting for? don't wait until 50.

>> somebody on my father's side and somebody on my mother's side had colon cancer and nobody spoke about it. i was already genetically predisposed to have colon cancer .

>> i look at myself as a walking reminder that cancer can be beaten. it can be survived.

>> beautiful grandson, i never thought i would meet him and i'm here. and i met him. i'm blessed. i have a great life.

>> well, here to tell us what you can do to reduce your risk is dr. mark po chapman. nice to see you again. they call it bowel disease or a silent disease, because nobody wants to talk about it. but so many of these people were too young in terms of the screening for it. so tell us how that happens. how does that work?

>> the screening, we usually start around age 50 or so, talk about people that are healthy, have a family history might need to start younger. if you have symptoms, you hurt, blood in the stool , change in bowel habits, that's diagnostic and you need a colonoscopy to evaluate that. screening is for people that are healthy and well.

>> is that a hereditary thing, if it is in your family, get checked earlier.

>> 25% are hereditary, but the main group of people that have this disease are no family history , just well and it comes out of the blue.

>> the symptoms, we heard some of them, are there some telltale things that if you feel like, is this just a sour stomach, a bad stomach or something i should take more seriously?

>> i think any change that is persistent should be evaluated by the physician, change in bowel habits, talk about blood in the stool , but sometimes it could be so minute that you don't see it. only picked up microscopically.

>> one of the women there talked about get your blood tested.

>> we didn't know you could -- there is a blood test for it.

>> there really isn't at this point. but you have the ability to see if you're anemic or iron deficient. a lot of women are iron deficient just from their monthly -- but men who are iron deficient should be evaluated and women too, of course.

>> it is like breast cancer , so many other cancers, earliest you can detect it. i remember my father and my -- and regis did not want to go for a colonoscopy because of the thought of it. i was much younger than the two of them. i said if i go and show you how easy it is, will the two of you do it? i went at 44 or something like that, and i told them, i showed them the thing, the scope, it is a piece of cake . regis fainted and my father never went. but some of the other people that did go, they said, you know what, we found polyps and i would be dead if i hadn't gone to -- because --

>> going when you're well and a lot of women don't think they need a colonoscopy. this is an equal opportunity killer. once women go for a colonoscopy they get their family, women are the gatekeepers to health. it is important that women recognize it. men, and finds those polyps, by finding them, growths inside the colon, removing them and prevent them. that's keat.

>> one stop shopping .

>> one stop shopping , exactly.

>> is it 50? is that the benchmark.

>> that's the benchmark for healthy people. you should talk to your doctor, family history might be younger.