Colon Cancer Survivor Says Screening Saved Her Life

CLIVE, Iowa  --  March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors want people to know the screening isn't so bad and it could save lives.

Angela Rooney was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago after going in for what she thought was a routine screening. She said, "I went in for my 50-year-old colonoscopy. I had no symptoms, no reason to think anything was going on."

She had part of her colon removed two weeks later. Six months of chemotherapy followed, since the cancer had moved to her lymph nodes. Iowa Digestive Disease Center Colorectal Surgeon Michael Page said, "85 percent with early stage will have a cure with surgery alone, so the key is finding it early."

Most people should get their first colonoscopy at the age of 50, and anyone with a family history of the disease or symptoms should see a doctor earlier. John Stoddard Cancer Center Oncology Nurse Navigator Jenny Cataldo said, "In the work I do, I've seen a large number of people that are younger than 50 that are also getting colorectal cancer. So don't just feel like it's a 50 or older disease."

Cataldo said everyone should talk to their doctor if they notice any changes in the bathroom. Dr. Page said, "Certainly the big one we talk about is blood in your stools, so if you have blood in your stool we worry about that. Change in your bowel habits, abdominal cramping, pain, things like that. Any change from normal we get worried about, you should see your doctor."

Rooney is thankful she was screened. She no longer needs scans or follow-ups. She'll get another colonoscopy in two years, and now doesn’t mind the procedure because it saved her life. She said, "When people complain about a colonoscopy, I'm like, it really isn't a big deal. It's all in your perspective and how you look at it."

Dr. Page said many people find the prep to be the most difficult part of a colonoscopy, but he said the liquid patients are required to drink is improving.

Learn more about colon cancer from John Stoddard Cancer Center and about treatment from the Iowa Digestive Disease Center.