March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. There are about 15 deaths per 100,000 people and at some point, 4% of men and women will be diagnosed. African American men are at a higher risk and experts advise that regardless of race, screening is key. Early onset colon cancer is especially tough to treat as most patients who are diagnosed under the age of 40 had not yet been screened and the disease can be further along.
Lawrence Melvin, older brother to NBC reporter Craig Melvin, was diagnosed at age 39. There was no history in the family and Lawrence had no other risk factors such as drinking or smoking. When he was diagnosed, the disease was already at Stage 4. After surgery and treatment, he is doing well, but his family worries. He has two children, both of whom will now be advised to start screening earlier than most. With no family history, most patients are screened at age 50. Medical professionals advise that relatives of patients who had early onset of colon cancer start screening 10 years earlier than the age their relative was at diagnosis. Prevention is key in colon cancer, check with your health provider to see what you should be doing to stay well.