HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) --March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
It's a disease we often associate with older age, but a new study from the American Cancer Society shows that colon cancer in younger people is on the rise.
It's the second deadliest cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and while it's normal protocol to get a colonoscopy for preventative measures after the age of 50, that's typically not the case when you're younger.
A couple years ago, doctors gave Marlana Jones' father a diagnosis of stage four colon cancer.
"They told him that if he had children, that they needed to be checked," recalled Jones.
But Jones put it off for months.
"I was 35, I mean, so who would have thought?" said Jones.
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Finally, Jones went to Dr. Franz Schneider at Gastroenterology Consultants for a colonoscopy.
While doing the colonoscopy, Dr. Schneider saw a polyp that looked worrisome.
"Colon cancer usually starts with a small polyp that we can detect and get rid of and take out during a colonoscopy," explained Dr. Schneider.
That's what Dr. Schneider did. When the results came back, they showed that the tip of that polyp did indeed have colon cancer.
"He told me, 'You are one lucky girl. You missed cancer from six months to a year.' I was floored. That's not what you're expecting to hear at 35. I had no symptoms," said Jones.
And that is often the case with colon cancer because it's a slow-moving cancer.
"The biggest scare that we have is once you start having changes, most of the time it's very late," said Dr. Schneider.
So it's important to pay attention to your body. Change in bowel habits, blood in your stool, relentless stomach pains, and unexplained weight loss are all red flags, which means you should see a doctor immediately.
"The best treatment is take it all out," Dr. Schneider said.
But sometimes that's not enough and chemo and radiation are necessary. And even though Jones didn't have symptoms, she said don't put off a visit to your doctor.
"Don't do it. Whenever you do it, you'll end up like my dad. He was stage four. The chemo, the treatment, the everything. Guys, it's not easy, and I'm not the one going through it. I'm just the one seeing it," said Jones.
Marlana Jones will now get a colonoscopy every three years as a preventative measure. If colon cancer runs in your family, be proactive and let your doctor know, so that you can get early screenings.
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