KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – In 2000, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric brought national attention to colon cancer when she underwent a colonoscopy on television in front of millions.
She decided to bring her audience into her doctor’s office to raise awareness of the cancer that killed her husband, Jay Monahan, just two years earlier at the age of 42.
Harry Scruggs has a similar story.
On November 19, 1998, a then 53 year-old Scruggs got the news that he had colon cancer.
"How long do I have to live," he recalled asking himself at the time.
As it would turn out, he had as long as he wanted, as long as he fought hard to survive.
Scruggs had a lot of work to do including several rounds of chemotherapy.
"It was like trying to climb up a hill,” he said, “only the further you get up that hill, the more you start sliding back."
Scruggs now knows he could have prevented the painful chemo treatments with early detection.
It wasn’t a colonoscopy that caught his cancer, but rather a physical he took at work.
He didn’t know that if you are over the age of 50, doctors recommend you undergo an examination as a precaution.
"You should talk to your physician about what to expect from the screening, colonoscopy and prep,” said Dr. Keith Gray from the University of Tennessee Cancer Center. “Just be informed about what it consists of."
It turns out there is a lot of misinformation out there about examinations, and it shouldn’t stop you from talking to a doctor about it.
"A lot of times we'll find that it's not as bad as what we think it might be,” said Dr. Gray, “and in the end, it's going to help save your life."
It saved Scruggs’s life, and now a decade later, his cancer remains in remission.
"Early screening is the best you can do for yourself if you find cancer in the early stages," he said.
Risk factors for colon cancer include smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption along with others that you can’t help, such as age and family history.
If it does run in your family, doctors recommend you start getting colonoscopy’s about 10 years before the age your family member was when they were diagnosed.