‘I would have had cancer’: Shannon Smith stresses importance of colon cancer screenings

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. – FOX8’s Shannon Smith shared with viewers Thursday that a recent colonoscopy may have saved her life.

"If I had waited to age 50 (to be screened) I would have cancer," said Smith, who had the screening at the age of 42 due to a family history. Her father was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 53. "I'm healthy, my numbers are all good, but I had a very large polyp that (doctors) described as precancerous that if they had not removed would have most likely turned into cancer in the next couple of years."

Smith isn't alone. The American Cancer Society says more young Americans are being diagnosed with colon cancer, which is why they lowered the recommendation age for screenings from 50 to 45. They also recommend getting screened earlier if you have a family history.

"If you have a strong family history of cancer in general, but specifically with colon cancer, particularity in a first-degree relative; a parent or sibling it’s very important that you start getting screen early," said Dr. Chan Badger with Novant Health. "Most times a polyp or a cancer lesion will start growing without really giving you any symptoms like blood in your stool which is the most common symptom."

Doctors say for many patients once symptoms are dedicated, they could already be in stage 3 or 4 of colon cancer and the survival rate drops dramatically.

"I'll have to have a colonoscopy this same time next year and they also told me my children will have to have one when they turn 32," said Smith. "Because people are getting this younger and now that I've had it and my father has had it, it means my kids will have to be screened."

Because of her family history of colon cancer, Smith was advised to have a colonoscopy at the age of 40 but admits she put it off.

Now she's sharing her story in hopes other people, especially with a family history, will make an appointment.

"You know the screening is not a fun process, everyone knows that," said Smith. "However, if one day getting screened saves my life, I'll do it - once a year, every year if I have to."