Health Professionals encourage early screenings during Colon Cancer Awareness Month

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The American Cancer Society is estimating more than 100,000 cases of colon cancer in 2021.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness month and health professionals say colon cancer is preventable with timely testing.

News 13’s very own, Tom Lewis, is a colon cancer survivor. Lewis did not have a family history and never thought a colonoscopy was necessary until his doctor pushed him to get one.

“Yeah, I mean there’s the one thing about ‘Yeah I wish I had gone ahead and had the test done when I should have at 50 years old,’ which I recommend everybody do,” Lewis said. “But the other question is what if I had just not had the test done at all?”

Lewis said finding out about his stage three colon cancer after his colonoscopy was a surreal experience.

“I woke up from that feeling like I had just had the best sleep I’ve ever had in the world so I felt great and then I looked at my wife and she kind of had this deer in the headlights look in her face and I just kinda looked at her and went ‘What I got cancer?’ and she kinda went ‘I think so,'” Lewis said.

Gulf Coast Medical Center and the Digestive Diseases Center Gastroenterologist, Dr. Shilpa Reddy, said colon cancer is preventative with regular screenings.

“Usually we are looking for polyps which are these precancerous lesions that grow into cancers in two, three, four, five years,” Reddy said. “So we want to find these polyps before they become a cancer. That is the importance of doing to colonoscopy early so that we can find these before they become a cancer, before you possibly need chemotherapy or radiation.”

Reddy said the new recommended age for colonoscopies is 45. However, not all insurance companies are covering early screenings.

You can also take preventative measures against colon cancer by eating a high fiber, heart-healthy diet and not smoking.

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