Colon Cancer and One Family’s Mission to Build Awareness

Every time I visit one of my favorite places on Earth, the beaches of 30A in Florida, I think of Billy Burnett. Billy was the husband of my beloved cousin Amy, and I’m pretty sure I first met him during one of our family trips to the Grayton Beach area. Our love of that area is one of the things we had in common. I have fond memories of laughing with him and Amy while spending the day on the beach or in the pool and watching him adore his boys, who are two of the coolest kids I know.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness month Colon Cancer Awareness month, and today would have been Billy’s 45th birthday. However, he lost his long battle with the disease late last year. His fight was long, painful, and agonizing, but done with such grace and dignity that can only be called inspiring. He worked until almost the end, not just because he was a man with an incredible work ethic, but to maintain as much normalcy as possible for his family. He fought to have a simple and regular life even while something as complex as cancer spread throughout his body. I think that many families who experience cancer can relate.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the country and the 3rd most commonly diagnosed. It effects both men and women, and 90% of new cases occur in people 50 years of age and older (this is why we start focusing on this screening when you’re in your 40s). However, people with close relatives (i.e. parent or sibling) with colon cancer have 2-3 times increased risk of developing the disease — and may need screening earlier.

I write these words in tribute to Billy and his family and in an effort to help bring awareness to the disease. As a primary care provider, I am always thinking about ways that I can prevent sickness and promote longevity of life in my patients. That is why everyone hears about the fact that when they turn 45 or 50 they will need to have a colonoscopy. This is a relatively simple, if not dreaded, test that can screen for cancer in an effort to detect abnormalities early so that progress can be halted.

At Intown Primary Care, we have multiple gastrointestinal and colorectal specialists that we refer to for this important screening exam. To serve our diverse population, we assure that appropriate recommendations are made including sending our transgender patients to facilities where they will receive not only excellent care but safe and supported care without fear of discrimination.

So, the next time you’re in the office, have Dr. Parry or one of our nurse practitioners discuss your risk factors for colon cancer as well as your personalized recommendations for screening. And if you’re not a patient yet, we’d love to help you live a longer and healthier life.