'You're not too young for colon cancer'

By  | 

One in 20: That's how many people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year. But it's not just older adults who should be concerned and screened.

This is what a decades-old friendship looks like: Shelly Meyer and Dr. Karen Lauer-Silva have shared lots of conversations.

But none more important than the one that started with a poster.

"There was a colon cancer screen flyer, and Shelly came out of the bathroom and said, 'I think I have colon cancer,' " Dr. Lauer-Silva said. "And I said, 'No you don't. You're 38-years old. You're way too young — you don't have colon cancer."

"So the doctor in her took over and was like asking all these doctor questions: Is there a change in your bowel movements? Is there blood in your stool? (She was) kind of drilling me," Myers said. "I don't know — there's just something wrong. Maybe I'll get one of those kits."

She got Meyer a colon screening kit, but it came with a warning.

"It's probably going to be positive because hemorrhoids," Dr. Lauer-Silva said. "That's the most typical thing that I used to think when young women would say they were worried about blood in their stool."

Shelly took the test, and it was positive, so she got a colonoscopy.

"I had a golf-ball sized mass in my traverse colon," Myers said.

The wife and mother of four had colon cancer.

"I was overwhelmed, scared. Really thought I'd probably die," she said.

It used to be colon cancer screenings were recommended at the age of 50. But as more and more young people like Shelly are diagnosed, the American Cancer Society now recommends screenings at age 45.

"So many people say you're too young for colon cancer. I'd like to tell doctors especially: No, you're not too young for colon cancer," Shelly said.

"Shelly's experience has changed my experience," Dr. Lauer-Silva said.
Now, she encourages young people to get screened.

"If you're worried, don't take 'no' for an answer. Most doctors that I know will listen to you," she said.

Meyer is thankful she spoke up.

"I think it saved my life," she said.

And grateful for her friend, who listened.