SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – We’re wrapping up the month of March with another push for awareness about colon cancer. It still remains the second-leading cause of cancer death. In our continued partnership with Intermountain Medical Center, we introduce you to a five-year colon cancer survivor.
Inside the colon sometimes there’s a polyp; a growth that’s potentially cancerous.
“This is a colon cancer, so here you have this large mass here,” said Utah Gastroenterologist & Intermountain Medical Center Gastroenterologist Dr. Gordon Harmston.
The potential for colon cancer increases with age. So surely a young and healthy Erin Winkler wouldn’t be at risk.
“I was diagnosed in 2008 with stage 3 colon cancer and I was 39 years old,” said Colon Cancer Survivor Erin Winkler.
She had all of the classic symptoms.
“Abdominal pain, change in bowel function, blood in the stool and in bowel movements,” said Winkler.
But she’s not your classic colon cancer patient.
“You gather strength and you think ok I’m going to hit this head on and we’re going to go for it,” said Winkler.
That’s what she did: surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. The cancer came back twice.
“The success rate is much higher if it hasn’t metastasize to the liver,” said Dr. Harmston.
Erin is now a five-year-survivor and grateful she went through this 20 minute procedure: a colonoscopy. It’s a procedure that takes a deeper look at the digestive organ.
“The most important thing the colon really does is absorb water and transport waste,” said Dr. Harmston.
Hopefully, when you have yours, it’ll look like this.
“The colon is nice and open. You don’t see any legions there you don’t see any polyps,” said Dr. Harmston.
Otherwise, you’ll be in Erin’s shoes battling colon cancer, but if you find out early and beat it…
“I’m a stronger person. I have a deeper faith and I don’t take relationships for granted,” said Winkler.
Like the relationship she has with her daughter who got married and a new relationship with her two year old grandson.
Dr. Harmston says everyone should get a colonoscopy starting at age 50. Age 35 for Black Americans because that group is more likely to get colon cancer. Anyone who has a family history, like Erin does, shouldn’t wait until 50; instead consult with your doctor.