If you have a family history of colon cancer or if you're over 50, you're more likely to develop colorectal cancer. But even if you're younger and no one in your family's ever had the disease, you may stiill be at risk.
Kim McKool probably doesn't fit your idea of a typical colorectal cancer patient. In her 40's, she manages laboratory services at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, a part of Conemaugh Health System.
She has no family history of colon cancer, but two years ago, severe abdominal pain sent her to the emergency room where a CT scan and X-rays showed a blockage in her colon. Doctors recommended immediate surgery. After the operation, lab tests determined that Kim had stage 3 colon cancer. Both Kim and her doctors were surprised.
Kim underwent several surgeries and six months of chemotherapy while working full time.
For three more years, she'll have MRI tests and other scans, as well as regular blood tests. She hopes that she'll be declared cancer-free at her five year mark.
Looking back, Kim thinks she should have known better. She'd been suffering symptoms of colon cancer, such as constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and fatigue. She always attributed them to something ese.
She explained, "I think I was embarrassed because it was the colon and that's why I'm speaknig today because I want to get that out there. Don't be afraid of it. Don't be embarrassed."
Know your body and your normal healthy functions. If you think something's different or wrong, have it checked out. In Kim's words, "if a woman felt a lump in her breast, she's going to call a physician immediately. There's not going to be any second guessing or waiting around and I hope the same happens with colon cancer."
And Kim added, never say you don't have time to deal with your health.