HOUSTON — It’s time to talk about preventative health care.
It's a topic that can be uncomfortable to discuss but we are shining a light on colorectal cancer.
Colon cancer is the most curable type -- if it's detected early. But only 65-percent of people who should be getting screened actually do.
It's why a Houston-area woman who knows this first-hand is sharing her experience and how screenings really do save lives.
Peggy Levin is a wife, mother, grandmother and dentist who has been in practice for 40 years.
She’s a woman who is always on the go. Until a surprising diagnosis.
“I had no symptoms whatsoever. No GI problems, no weight loss.” she said.
The diagnosis brought her busy schedule to a halt.
Levin was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer that had spread to her liver.
“It was such a shock, I love working, it's kind of my favorite thing to do and all of a sudden you're a very sick patient, you're in ICU, and you're having three days of chemo every other week.” She said.
What's frustrating Levin says is, she worked hard to live a healthy lifestyle.
“I thought I took care of myself. I exercised with a trainer three times a week. I watched what I ate, I never ate bad things, and I have no family history, I never had a polyp of any problems.” She said.
She went in for a colonoscopy in 2010 which came back with clean results.
But a few years later, when she was diagnosed with anemia, her doctor suggested she get screened again. And that's when the tumors were discovered.
“I don't know if it's our diet, or something in the air, but it's not just related to people who have risk factors such as family members who have had polyps," said Dr. Harold Bailey with UT Physicians.
“It starts with a polyp that eventually turns into a malignant tumor.” He said.
Screenings help detect those polyps early so they can be removed.
It is slow-growing – and often times, signs and symptoms don't show until the cancer is in advanced stages.
“People think about bleeding, change in the caliber of their stools and stool bleeding,” said Dr. Bailey.
The number of colon cancer cases diagnosed in people over 50 has gone down but more young people are being diagnosed.
Which is why Levin hopes her story encourages others to go in for their colonoscopy as soon as they turn 50.
“Cancer is such a terrible disease, and the treatment is much worse than the screening test.” She said.
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