TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As a nurse - and a daughter - Brenda Wagner knows the importance of colon cancer screening.
She says her father underwent his first colonoscopy around the age of 53, after his sister died of colon cancer.
"He had about 12 polyps (the first time)," she said. "His last colonoscopy was about three weeks ago and he had 20 polyps and he's 79 now, so because of colonoscopy he's still alive."
Brenda's mom wasn't so lucky. Even with screenings, a particularly aggressive cancer took her life.
"I would never want anybody to say that they didn't want to have a colonoscopy because of the prep because they need to see what happens with colon cancer," she said. "They need screening so they don't have to deal with cancer."
It's a message echoed by Tanner Speake, PA-C, with Cotton O'Neil Digestive Health in Topeka.
"Everybody should be screened," he said."
Speake says colon cancer screening should begin at age 50. If there's family history, the first colonoscopy should be done at an age ten years younger than when that person was diagnosed. How often to repeat the screening depends on whether polyps are found and what types of polyps they are.
Though a lot of attention has been given to less invasive options, Speake says colonoscopy remains the best method.
"The screening is to catch any polyps before they turn into cancer," he said. "If we do find polyps (during a colonoscopy), we'll remove them (immediately). We'll get biopsies. Removing that polyp pretty well eradicates that potential for the colon cancer to eventually develop."
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. More than 135,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed this year, and more than 50,000 will die from it. It often does not show any symptoms, such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits, until the disease is more advanced.
With her family history, Brenda takes screenings seriously. She hopes everyone gets the message that it's a small inconvenience that could save your life.
"We still don't screen near enough people," she said. "Don't wait. Get it done."