CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - More than 130,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year.
March is colon cancer awareness month, and doctors are urging you to check yourself.
"I was having some bleeding in my stool," said Ivy Yeoman, a stage three colon cancer patient. "I'd had it for a couple years, but had attributed it to
hemorrhoids because of the birth of my son."
Yeoman underwent surgery for her cancer a few months ago. She was diagnosed at age 30, extremely young for this kind of cancer.
"Not what I expected going into the doctor," she said.
Yeoman admits she probably should have gotten checked sooner, but is thankful for the modern technology that has her on the way to recovery.
Her first step though was the dreaded colonoscopy.
"I knew that it was important, knowing that something was wrong and that was how they were going to find out what the problem was," she said. "I guess
was what helped me get through it."
During a colonoscopy doctors sedate the patient, while using the most common method, inserting a flexible tube into the anus looking for any cancerous growth.
"If we diagnose these cancers in the early stage, this can be completely curable," said Dr. Virgilio George, MD, at MUSC's Colon and Rectal Surgery Department.
If they find signs of cancer, doctors will then perform a surgery using robotic equipment that is less invasive.
"It allows us to perform surgeries with small incisions and a short time to recover," Dr. George said.
"I was really surprised with how quickly I healed and how I was able to get back to normal living," Yeoman said.
Yeoman said she was feeling better in a matter of six to eight weeks.
Meanwhile, MUSC does have another kind of test for colon cancer, the CT colonography. It takes an x-ray of the area to see if you have a tumor.
While it's less of a pain for the patient, doctors state it's not the recommended method of testing.
"It's not as specific as the regular colonoscopy, because when you find the growth you cannot take a piece, a biopsy of this area," Dr. George said. "What a biopsy is, is taking a piece of the tumor and seeing what kind of a tumor it is."
Of the 136,000 people who will be diagnosed this year across the country, seven percent or 9,520 people, will be located here in the Lowcountry.
Awareness is key.
"Definitely pay attention to what your body is telling you," Yeoman said. "I went almost three years ignoring it, because it is a very taboo subject to go to the doctor and talk about that, especially at 30 or younger."
Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in America.
It affects both men and women usually between the ages of 45 and 65 years old.
Doctors recommend screenings during your mid-40s.