Kick colorectal cancer in the butt

Health & Fitness

ZoAnn Keck and her mother, Donna Randall. | Courtesy photo
This story is brought to you by Grand Peaks Medical and Dental, a multi-specialty, nonprofit, Community Health Center in St. Anthony and Rexburg.

ZoAnn Keck was 39 when she lost her mother to colorectal cancer.

Her mother, Donna Randall, died two days before her 70th birthday. Keck was raising six kids at the time, and her mom was one of her closest friends.

“There was one night I literally sobbed like a baby because I knew my mom wasn’t going to make it,” Keck said.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States that affects both men and women.

When the cancer starts in the colon or rectum, it is called colorectal cancer. It’s often referred to as colon cancer.

Keck’s parents called her in 2004 with the news. Doctors found polyps — small clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon or rectum — at an annual screening. They took the polyps out and had her come back three months later.

Unfortunately, doctors discovered a mass roughly the size of a fist in her rectum.

Things went downhill quickly, Keck said. Donna underwent numerous surgeries in Utah. But doctors weren’t able to get the entire mass because it was wrapped around a nerve.

Medical professionals told her a few months later that there was nothing more they could do for her. She tried some natural routes, but she died in January 2005.

“I was ready to let her go because of the pain she was in 24 hours a day. Her discouragement was more than I could bear,” Keck said.

Unfortunately, the cancer took her life within six months after her diagnosis. Luckily, Keck’s situation is rare.

Roughly 9 out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated are still alive five years later.

“Colorectal cancer is unfortunately the second most common cause of cancer in men and women. Fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable if caught early. Screening can help to catch it early before it progresses into more serious and life threatening disease,” said Dr. Jacob Curtis, the Medical Director for Grand Peaks Medical & Dental.

Screening for colon cancer can include lab tests or diagnostic imaging. Screenings can find precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer or if a cancerous area is found early, there is a greater chance that treatment will be effective.

Regular screening, starting at 50, is one of the best ways to prevent colon cancer, according to the CDC. However, you may want to be tested earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer. Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about when to start screenings, which test is right for you, and how often you should be screened.

Awareness campaigns to the public, like the designation of March being the recognized “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, are working toward increased information and awareness in the public.

“Awareness of this mostly treatable disease, education on warning signs and symptoms, as well as regular check-ups with your Healthcare Provider are vital in preventing this as well as many other curable or treatable diseases,” said Becky Crapo, spokeswoman for Grand Peaks Medical & Dental.

Knowing when to see a doctor is also vital. If you notice any unusual symptoms such as blood in your stool or an ongoing change in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool, as well as unexplained pain or abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, weakness or fatigue, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor, the Mayo Clinic says.

“Being too embarrassed to talk to your healthcare provider could cost you your life,” Crapo says. “We have so many amazing healthcare professionals in our area, that would much rather talk about symptoms and treat them early, rather than give the diagnosis of cancer when symptoms were ignored or untreated.”

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