Check Up 13: The importance of timely screenings in preventing colorectal cancer

43-year-old and father of two, Jeff Day, who has stage 4 colon cancer is getting treatment at Ascension St. Vincent Cancer Care Center. (WTHR/AnneMarie Tiernon)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The emphasis of Check Up 13 this month is colon and rectal cancers.

These typically are slow growing cancers and yet colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Timely screening can drastically improve outcomes. The colonoscopy is the gold stand test for detected abnormalities like polyps, which are benign tumors that may over time develop into cancer.

Jeff Day said he had symptoms for nearly a year. They would come and go and he said he always had several excuses for not seeing a doctor.

"I just did not want to take the time to away from work, away from my family to have to take a vacation day because I had to take a vacation day or a sick day if I had a doctors appointment," he said.

Now Day, who has Stage 4 colon cancer, spends lots of time in treatment. He encourages others to make the time to get screened, especially those who are 50 or older and have any of the symptoms.

Dr. Niraj Gupta said symptoms can include a change in bowel habits, noticing blood in your stool, contipation, diarrhea, bloating or something that just seems off.

"We are all in tune with our body; we know how our body works but something that is not typical. ... Let's not just put it off," he said.

Doctors can remove polyps during a colonoscopy, and when they are found in early stages the cure rate is nearly 100 percent.

Another option for detecting issues is a home colon kit.

For Check Up 13 this month, a limited number of colonoscopies and free home colon kits are available for people 50 years old with one of the following risk factors:

  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Personal medical history of: colorectal polyps; breast, uterine and/or ovarian cancer; ulcerative colitis and/or Crohn's disease; inflammatory bowel disease
  • Sustained period of bleeding with bowel movements or change in bowel habits
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Type 2 diabetes

If you qualify and would like to learn more, click here. You must register before midnight on March 13, 2020. To register, call the hotline at 1-866-824-3251 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. or register online.