AUSTIN -- Each year more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer in the U.S. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. What better way to promote awareness than to see and hear from someone whose procrastination in getting screened could have cost her her life.
"It's a shame not to do it at the right time," said 67-year-old Anne Nedza of Cedar Park.
Nedza can't help but think what if? What if she hadn't waited 16 years between colon cancer screenings?
"You know I really wasn't mad at myself, but I just wished I had done it before," she said.
"The issue with colon cancer is in many instances it doesn't have a lot of presenting signs and symptoms," said Thiru Lakshman, M.D., a colorectal surgeon at St. David's North Austin Medical Center. "It's not like you are going to feel a lump on the breast or something else like that. Usually when you do have symptoms such as bleeding or changes in bowel habits those are late findings."
When Nedza did undergo her second colonoscopy she learned she had stage one colon cancer. Regret quickly turned to concern.
"Concern and scared and not knowing. Just the unknown of where we are going with the cancer, and how it was going to process out," said Nedza.
Now instead of just getting a colonoscopy which can detect and even remove some polyps, Nedza required surgery. Lakshman removed the cancerous polyp.
"We probably removed about 10 - 15 centimeters of her colon to make sure there are adequate margins on either side to remove all of the potential cancer," he said.
Lakshman says the good news for Nedza and other colorectal patients is that if it's detected in its early stages it's one of the more treatable and curable cancers.
"I was very, very lucky," said Nedza. "From where I was when I had it that it was only the early stage one."
Now Nedza says she's going public with her own colorectal cancer awareness campaign and the need for regular colonoscopies.
"I have told everybody in my family," she said. "I put it on Facebook. I have told everybody I can tell. I think it can save many, many lives and I think it could save even more."
Lakshman says patients with no family history of colorectal cancer should get their first colonoscopy no later than 50.
Those with a family history should get their first at age 40. Depending on what doctors find will determine the recommended time between the next colonoscopy.