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Don't put off your cancer screenings

Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 29, 2023

We’re nearing the end of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the second most deadly cancer for Americans is striking younger people. A new report from the American Cancer Society also shows 1 in 5 new cases of colon cancer are being diagnosed in patients in their early 50's or younger.

33-year-old Lorna Davis is one of those patients. It was just one year ago when she started experiencing troubling symptoms.

“Once I really started listening to my body and thinking this isn’t normal, like I was having cramps around the time of the month I shouldn’t be having cramps…I had a gut feeling that something was up,” said Davis.

Davis and her husband had two young daughters at home. After experiencing the pain of cramps and blood in her stool she knew something was wrong. There were lots of possible causes, and she was determined to get the right help to find an explanation for what was going on.

“My general doctor I've been going to for years, he was the one that initially was like, hey, you know, this isn't getting any better,” said Davis.

Dr. Mark Lewis with Intermountain Health said, “We take confidentiality so seriously, that you can tell us almost literally anything. And that includes the privacy that the exam room affords, for doing things like a rectal exam.”

Going through less serious possibilities didn’t pan out, and Davis followed her doctor’s advice and scheduled a colonoscopy…12 years earlier than most of us are advised to get one.

“Don't put it off because I was lucky. And the nurse actually told me when I woke up from my procedure, that I'm so glad that you came in right now. Because you could have just saved your own life, instead of waiting until you're 45,” said Davis.

“45 is the age, as you said, where we start screening. But you can have you absolutely can have symptoms earlier than that,” said Lewis.

That’s the key. Screening recommendations are minimums. If you have symptoms…pain, bleeding, don’t gamble with our life. Get them checked.

“Yeah, I had those people that were like, Oh, you're fine, and then those other people like there's something wrong, you need to go figure it out,” said Davis.

“I've seen many, many young women who later we find out they had a colon or rectal cancer, and they were told you just have particularly severe menstrual cramps,” said Lewis.

Davis said, “You'd be surprised how many people like reached out to me on social media or friends or family or like even acquaintance and say, like, how did you know?”

She didn’t know…and she understood that she didn’t know and she followed the simple wisdom of young children and parents of young children…immortalized in a classic picture book – “Everyone Poops.”

“I know it's silly to say that but it's just the truth. There's nothing to be ashamed of. We all do it, and it’s a really important sign of your gut health,” said Lewis.

“I want to talk about it because I obviously feel really passionate about spreading the word,” said Davis.

Dr. Lewis says embarrassment about sensitive subjects causes real harm when it comes to early detection of colon cancer. He also said women are often more concerned about family members than themselves and often dismiss their symptoms.

For more information or to make an appointment to get screened, visit intermoutnainhealthcare.org/colonoscopy.