A cancer diagnosis is terrifying, and cancer treatment is hard. The earlier you can catch your cancer, however, the better. This 40-year-old mother who survived colon cancer is now speaking out about her experience with the illness. She wants everyone to be aware of symptoms so they won’t have to go through what she had to. (1)
Woman Sharing Her Colon Cancer Symptoms To Encourage People To Monitor Their Own Health
At 40 years old, mother-of-two Suzanne Miller received the worst news imaginable: She had colon cancer. The news came as a shock, having never been in the hospital for anything other than her two daughters’ birth. She was healthy, other than suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and having a family history of Crohn’s Disease. (1)
“In August 2016, I was having issues going to the bathroom and I found blood in my stool. I thought maybe it’s something I ate,” she told Today. “A couple days passed and there was blood in my stool again. It was just a lot and didn’t seem right. I knew that if it was bright red blood, maybe it was hemorrhoids or something like that that can be fixed, but this was dark blood.” (1)
Her doctor referred her to a gastroenterologist, who suggested she get a colonoscopy, “just to be safe”. (1)
It was a good thing they did. The test found an 8cm tumor, which turned out to be stage one colon cancer. (1)
Suzanne’s Next Steps
She had surgery on November 18th to remove the mass. The surgeon told her that her vigilance about her health paid off. If she had waited even a month or two longer, her fate could have been much worse. (1)
The surgery went well; however, while she was in the recovery area, things took a turn. (1)
“I was in recovery, and then all hell broke loose. I started losing a lot of blood. My body was going into shock. I ended up having to get six pints of blood, and I was in the ICU for four days.” (1)
When she finally got to go home, she got the news that they successfully removed the mass and her cancer had not spread. Instead of months of chemo and radiation, she trained for a half marathon, which she ran six months later. (1)
Keep Your Rear in the Clear
At first, Suzanne was shy about talking about her experience with colon cancer. Normally very open, she was nervous, frankly, to talk about her butt.
“I had never heard people really talk about colon cancer, talking about your butt — it’s kind of a sensitive topic,” she said. “But I also didn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through or even worse. So I posted about having surgery to have a tumor removed at 40 years old because of colon cancer.” (1)
The number of people who reached out surprised her. Now, she spreads awareness about early detection, signs and symptoms, and how to get checked. She, herself, gets checked every year on November 18 to commemorate the date of her surgery. (1)
“Maybe this is TMI, but when you go to the bathroom, turn around and look at it. I’ve gotten in that habit because I just want to be sure that I’m not going through it again. If you see blood, call your doctor.” (1)
The Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer for Women
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 25 women in the United States is at risk of developing colon cancer. It is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in both men and women, but doctors say screening and early diagnosis could change that. (2) The important thing is that people are aware of this cancer’s signs and symptoms to know when to call their doctor.
Signs of colon cancer in women, just as they are in men, include (2):
- Constipation, diarrhea, and changes to regular bowel movements
- Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- The feeling that your bowel hasn’t completely emptied
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue, weakness, and reduced energy level
The challenge for women is that many of the symptoms mimic those related to PMS and menstruation. You may think blood in your stool is spotting or that cramps are period-related. Weakness and fatigue could be confused with the symptoms of anemia. (2)
If you are experiencing these symptoms outside of your regular cycle, speak to your doctor and ask to be tested. If you are brushed off with the “it’s probably just your period” trope, go elsewhere. (2)
It is better to be vigilant and be wrong than to wait until it is too late. This is particularly important if you have a family history of colon cancer or even just benign tumors (polyps) in the colon. As always, increasing age and unhealthy lifestyle factors such as inactivity, overweight, smoking, and excessive drinking increase your risk. (2)
As Suzanne shows, however, even younger, fit, and healthy women can develop colon cancer. So if you are worried, go get checked. It could save your life.
- “Woman diagnosed with colon cancer at 40 urges others to ‘keep your rear in the clear’.” Today. Suzanne Miller and A. Pawlowski. March 4, 2021.
- “How is colon cancer diagnosed?” Healthline. James Roland. November 3, 2020