By: Kathleen Jacob
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society predicts more than 96,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year alone.
USC professors and students are working to raise awareness as well as find a cure for the deadly disease.
Dr. Frank Berger, the Director of the Center for Colon Cancer Research at USC, says people over 50 are at the highest risk for developing colon cancer and should have a screening done each year. However, people over 50 are not the only ones at risk.
"The frequency with which people under 50 are being diagnosed is going up," says Berger.
Lana Burgess learned this lesson the hard way when she was diagnosed with colon cancer at thirty-nine.
Almost five years ago she went to the doctor with stomach pains. After they discovered she had blood in her stool, they suggested she have a colons.
"I was always very active, had always been very interested in taking care of myself, always checked for heart disease, was really really anal about all of that, but I never really looked any lower," says Burgess.
After Burgess was diagnosed with colon cancer, doctors removed the cancer from her intestines and she went through chemotherapy. Berger says she is fortunate to be alive and in a few months she will be in remission.
She wants to use her story to make others aware of the warning signs and encourage them to get regular colon cancer screenings, no matter how old they are.
Dr. Berger says researchers are still trying to determine what has caused the increase in people under fifty being diagnosed with colon cancer, but regardless of age, the statistics remain overwhelming in South Carolina.
"By this time tomorrow, six families in South Carolina will learn that one of their members has colorectal cancer," says Berger, "And two families in South Carolina will lose one of their members to colorectal cancer."
Berger says the research center focuses on community outreach and offers assistance for those who may not be able to afford colon cancer screenings.
For more information about colon cancer, visit the Center For Colon Cancer Research.