Colon cancer awareness: the importance of early screening

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FAYETTEVILLE Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Colon cancer is a battle that takes up to 50,000 lives per year. Just recently, Chadwick Boseman lost his own fight to it. Now, doctors and survivors are hoping this will bring more awareness to the importance of screenings.

Paul Olivieri, a local survivor of colon cancer, says we can’t forget that this disease is not limited to the celebrities we see in the media; it’s possible for anyone to get this disease.

“Every day people get this at a far higher ratio than what the news reports on,” he said.

It’s been 17 months since Olivieri was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. At the age of 49 and no close family history of the disease, he says this diagnosis came as shock to him and his loved ones.

“You’re really just shocked… you don’t know how to react,” he said. “Talking to family and friends about it was even more difficult because like I said at 49 you don’t think about it.”

Dr. Chad Paschall, a Gastroenterologist at Fayetteville Diagnostic Center, says screenings can have a dramatic impact on the number of people diagnosed. He says this is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

“About 136,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year and if we did a better job of screening and could get more people in to be screened that wouldn’t have to be the case,” he said.

As for when to get that screening, it depends on the person.

The biggest indicator that you need an early screening is having a family history of colon cancer.

“For average-risk persons, age 50 is recommended,” Dr. Paschall said. “We do know that the African American population does tend to develop colon cancer at an earlier age.”

Dr. Paschall says for African Americans the screening age should be 45 and for those with a family history of the disease, screenings should be happening at age 40 or at least 10 years prior to the age the relative was at the time of his/her diagnosis.

Dr. Paschall also wants to remind everyone not to be afraid of the colonoscopy procedure, especially considering it can save your life, just like it saved Olivieri’s.

“The earlier the testing the better because you don’t want to go what I’ve gone through- I can promise you that,” Olivieri said.

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