Does Colon Cancer Run in Your Family? What You Should Know

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Colon cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the number one killer in the U.S. by 2030. That's according to a report by the American Cancer Society. Still, colon cancer is one of the most curable.

Just ask Jannie Cotton who had her first colonoscopy 22 years ago. She already had an ulcer and figured the blood in her stool had something to do with that. Little did she know that colonoscopy would lead to three dreaded words.

"You have cancer." That's what she says Dr. Alonzo Williams, a gastroenterologist at Arkansas Diagnostic, told her. 

Jannie was only 38 years old at the time. That test saved her life.

Dr. Williams says some people fear it, but he describes it this way, "Taking a flexible tube, passing it up your bottom, examining your colon. It seems so awful. It seems so painful. I tell most of my patients they don't even know they had the test done because we have anesthesia and they have conscious sedation."

Jannie's been cancer free for two decades, but now she worries about her three daughters, including 40-year old LaKisha Johnson, and for good reason. Dr. Williams says it takes about ten years for cancer to go from a polyp to the full-blown disease. In Jannie's case, the polyp probably developed at age 28, which is the time her children should have their first screening. LaKisha tried, but she told us the insurance company wouldn't cover it even though she told them she was high risk.

She says she's going to try again this year. So far, she hasn't shown any symptoms of colon cancer, but Dr. Williams tells us the minute you start having signs ask to be evaluated, not screened.  

Symptoms mean you need an evaluation and your insurance company is more likely to cover the cost of the test if you're symptomatic. 

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