For most, colorectal cancer screenings are a life-saving preventive measure. Allies report that the preparation needed for a colonoscopy is less bothersome than before, and the procedure itself is nothing more than a “great nap.”
Most people who are screened receive news of a clean colon. But colorectal cancer screenings don’t exist to find nothing. They exist to save the lives of the one in 23 who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in his or her lifetime.
They exist for people like Beth Kornegay of Shawnee, Kansas.
Beth, a marketing content specialist for DCA Outdoor, admits to being a rule follower. So when she turned 50 years old, she dutifully scheduled a colonoscopy. A screening—just a “thing to check off the list,” Beth said—may have been the most important appointment of her life.
Because she had no symptoms of colorectal cancer, Beth was shocked to learn she had a fist-size tumor in her sigmoid colon. Days later doctors informed Beth that she had stage III colon cancer.
“When I had my colonoscopy I had no idea my life was about to change—there were even times when I thought I was going to die,” Beth said. “I started getting things lined up with a colorectal surgeon in Kansas City, and I credit him and my oncology team for saving my life.”
In the years since her diagnosis, Beth has shared her story many times and convinced others to get screened.
“I’ve been able to help other people really see why it’s important to take care of it in a timely fashion,” Beth said. “Even if you aren’t bloated, losing weight, or have blood in your stool, it’s important to get screened, so the possibility of this disease is not hanging over your head and you know you’re well.”
Still, many eligible people in the United States go without being screened for colorectal cancer. In 2015, only 63 percent of people above age 50 had been screened, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Screening rates are lowest among the uninsured.
Just last month, Beth celebrated five years without evidence of disease.
“I feel incredibly lucky, very blessed,” Beth, who is now 56 years old, said. “I feel like I never took things for granted, but this is another case of you can’t take things for granted—you have no idea.”
In celebration of Olympus’ 100th anniversary, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance is partnering with Olympus in 2019 to schedule and screen 100 people across the nation and raise awareness of colorectal cancer, in an effort to save lives. Patients are connected with screenings through the Alliance's Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program. More information and the screening application is available here.