Colon Cancer Awareness Month

KELLY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. It's a time to get checked out by your doctor, or a time to schedule a colonoscopy if you are due for one. Doctors recommend colonoscopies every 10 years starting at age 50. For Tish Showers of Selinsgrove, that started a lot sooner.

"I started having colonoscopies every two years from the time I was 19," Showers said.

Tish's mom died from colon cancer at the age of 45, which ultimately changed the way Tish takes care of herself. She recently got genetic testing and found out she has Lynch Syndrome, which makes her 85% more likely to get cancer.

"Not only colorectal cancer, also endometrial, ovarian, brain, skin," Showers said.

According to doctors at Central Penn Gastroenterology Associates near Lewisburg, between 45,000-50,000 people die from colon cancer each year. It is the number two cancer death in the United States. But it is preventable because of how it develops. Over time, some people develop polyps in the colon.

"Polyps are little benign tumors. By themselves they're not going to hurt you, but over time they will grow. They get bigger and bigger and eventually turn into cancer," Dr. Joseph Gallagher said.

Doctor Joseph Gallagher tells Newswatch 16 it takes about 10 years for this to happen.

"If you look in there, find the polyp and take it out, once it's gone, it can't turn into a cancer. So you can prevent cancer by removing the polyps," Gallagher said.

The doctors at Central Penn Gastroenterology Associates do around 20 colonoscopies a day. The general rule is to start getting colonoscopies when you turn 50, unless you have a family history of colon cancer.

"Do the screening. A colonoscopy is no big deal. It really isn't," Showers said.

Doctor Gallagher says even if you are younger than 50, be vigilant in noticing irregular bowel habits or bleeding with bowel movements.