Colon cancer awareness takes center stage in March

Myrtle Beach, SC - (WMBF) - Hundreds of thousands are diagnosed every year, and according to the American Cancer Society, nearly 50,000 will die from colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S.  Those deaths are completely avoidable.

This colon cancer awareness month, a familiar face around WMBF News is taking prevention very seriously. WMBF News General Manager Ted Fortenberry is staying ahead of the disease with his first colonoscopy.

His motive behind his prevention efforts - a bittersweet one. Fortenberry lost his father to the disease.

"My dad died when I was 22, so I missed a lot of my life with him," Fortenberry explained.  "It would have been nice if he was around longer."

With two kids of his own, he's making sure that he's around for the long haul.

"Luckily, I have two older brothers and they've already been checked.  They did not have any issues so hopefully that is the same for me," Fortenberry said.

Gastroenterologist Andrew Pearson said family history or not, everyone needs to be checked by the age of 50.

"When you take breast cancer and put it together with HIV and you combine the two of them, more people die from colon cancer," Pearson said.

Those are sobering statistics, but still, many Americans still don't get checked.  Pearson said it's an issue of access to doctors, education and the idea that the procedure is just too inconvenient.

Sure, you do have to go through a good colon cleansing.  Fortenberry admits, that was the hardest part.

"The big challenge for me is that I love to eat," Fortenberry said.  "I wasn't able to eat anything for a day and a half, two days."

But get through that and Pearson said the visit to the office is fast and painless.

"When you come in, you get your IV placed, get hooked up with fluids, we ask you some questions, and then we take you back to the procedure room.  It will last 20 to 30 minutes depending on how much work," Pearson said, "Once you are passing gas, you get to go home!"

If a little bathroom humor doesn't set your mind at ease, maybe some advice from our patient, a man who lost his dad too soon, will.

"If this can some way help someone go ahead and get checked, I think it's worth putting it on TV," said Fortenberry, who passed his check-up with flying colors.

All kinds of statistics can be thrown at you, like 1-in-19 people will be diagnosed, or that it affects men more than women, but when it comes down to it, you know if you need to get checked out.  Make a point, right now, to make your appointment.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved.