Doctors say colon cancer is preventable by screenings like colonoscopies and urge everyone to get one before age 50
The month of March has been proclaimed as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors are taking the time to speak out about preventative measures.
Colon cancer is the number two cause of cancer-related deaths in both the country and the state, but doctors say it doesn't have to be deadly at all.
"Colon cancer is actually preventable so screening is very important," said gastroenterologist Dr. March Seabrook. "The most important risk factor for any one person is their age in terms of increasing their risk for developing colon cancer."
Doctors urge everyone to get a colonoscopy by the age of 50 or earlier if there's a family history of colon cancer, and survivor Wanda Addy says it's what saved her life when she was diagnosed at stage three nearly 14 years ago.
"You've got to be alert, proactive. It's the only cancer that we can stop before it becomes a cancer, you can have it removed as a pollop before it's even become a cancer," said Addy. "That's just part of my payback, is that you spend these extra years making sure the message gets out there."
Only 5% of those diagnosed past stage two survive longer than five years, which is why doctors say it's so important not to skip screenings. As one of those few, Addy is not shy about becoming one of the faces of colon cancer.
"These have been 14 bonus years," said Addy. "You have to take those bonus years and do everything you can with them, and part of what I feel like is my responsibility for my bonus years is to get out and talk to people about it."
Most insurances cover a colonoscopy, however the University of South Carolina's Cancer Center as teamed up with multiple doctors across the state to offer them at no cost if referred by a free medical clinic like the one in Columbia.