Colon cancer: One patient's warning to stay healthy

Turning 50 means starting new health screenings for most people. Since 90 percent of colorectal cancers are diagnosed at age 50 or older, there are some things you need to do to stay healthy and be fabulous at 50.

Colorectal cancer is expected to cause more than 49,000 deaths this year. But cancer experts credit screenings, like colonoscopies, for more people surviving the deadly disease.

One colon cancer survivor, who isn't afraid to tell any of you procrastinators to get checked, said he procrastinated after getting medical advice to get a colonoscopy when he was 50.

"(To)be honest with you, the doctor says, 'Colonoscopy, check your rear end,' I say, 'Oh no man I can't do that.' And I prolong(ed) it and prolong(ed) it, and thank the lord that I woke up," survivor Raymond Brooks said.

He said he felt zero symptoms, but when he finally got the courage to go under anesthesia for doctors to examine his colon, he was already at stage four cancer.

"I never grasped on it, how serious it was," Brooks said.

"The problem is the early stages really don't have any symptoms," Dr. Gabriel Aisenberg, from Harris Health System/UTHealth said.

He said this is one of the only health screenings that, if done early, can truly lead to curing cancer.

"If it is far advanced, one out of three people with advanced forms of cancer will die every year from colon cancer," Aisenberg said.

That means, if Brooks had delayed his test any longer, it could have been deadly.

"I understand now, I wouldn’t be here," he said. "But I'm blessed we caught it in time."

Instead of keeping his health problems private, Brooks is on a mission to send a message, particularly to men who have a slightly higher risk of colon cancer.

"You('ve) got to man up. So my slogan now to everybody, especially men, man up, get your colon checked, do a colonoscopy."

Aisenberg says 90 percent of the colorectal cancer diagnoses happen at 50 or older, which is why the guidelines set screenings for then.

The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance and Medicare to cover these screenings, plus breast and cervical cancer screening without cost-sharing.

If you have to get biopsies or polyp removal, then you need to check with your provider on co-pays.