Most colorectal cancers occur in people without a family history of the disease.
Still, 1 in 5 people who develop colon cancer, have family members also affected by it.
Knowing her family history and acting on it is a major reason why one Johnstown woman is healthy today.
Bea Hafeli died of colorectal cancer about ten years ago, when she was in her 70's. In February of last year, her daughter Anne McGrath started noticing changes in her lower digestive tract. Anne was just 46. The American Cancer Society recommends that most people undergo their first screening colonoscopy when they turn 50, but Anne knew the symptoms of colorectal cancer and that people with a family history of the disease face a higher risk.
As she explained it, "most importantly I started noticing a difference and decided that I had to listen to my body and pursue options." So Anne went to her doctor who recommended a colonoscopy.
During the procedure, a 90% blockage in her colon was discovered and she was diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer It required major surgery and her doctor gave her the option of six months of chemotherapy which she took.
Anne said, "I was very lucky that it was caught when it was caught and I think the reason for that was again because I had a heightened awareness from my family history and I advocated and listened to my body."
At Conemaugh Health System, gastroeneterologist Dr. Hira Koul warned, that even if you don't experience symptoms of colorectal cancer, if you have a first-degree relative, a parent, a brother or a sister who's had the disease, get screened even earlier than recommended for most people.
Dr. Koul advised, "if your first degree relative had colorectal cancer your screening should start 15 years earlier than the age at which the colon cancer was detected in your first-degree relative."
Anne's chemotherapy ended in January and she said she feels good, her energy level's good and she continues to be tuned in to what her body's telling her.
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