Colon cancer: Know your family history

Matt O'Hara gives Caryn Victoria Antos a kiss during a welcome home oyster roast for friends on February 2. Photo provided

Looking back, we've all had those “I should've known” experiences.

Caryn Victoria Antos had just that sort of experience and wants to share it with others.

As many may have read in these pages in the Jan. 22 edition of Your Health, Antos went to Barcelona, Spain, to get married on New Year's Eve. But instead of bliss on her wedding day, she ended up spending the first day of nearly a month in a Spanish hospital.

In short, Antos, who is 34 and lived a healthy lifestyle, had a tumor in her large intestine that turned out to be cancerous.

As March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it seems appropriate that Antos' message is spread: Know your family history.

Antos did everything else right. As an avid runner and yoga instructor, she got her exercise. She ate right. And why suspect an illness that usually strikes older men.

But when the diagnosis came, it brought with it some facts about her family history.

Antos had a grandfather on her father's side and great-grandfather who had colon cancers.

“There are always lessons embedded in these experiences,” Antos says. “(After getting the news), the surgeon in Spain looked at my sister (Heather) and told her to have a colonoscopy.”

As for Caryn, who returned from Spain on Jan. 24, she has started a treatment of 12 chemotherapy sessions, one every two weeks, and is doing everything wholistically to stack the proverbial deck for fighting the disease.

Her case reminds us all that colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, yet it often is preventable and, when detected early, highly curable. Colon polyps and early cancers often cause no symptoms.

The takeaway: Early screening saves lives.