TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topekan Laura Lucero felt the way most people do about getting her first colonoscopy.
"I had quite a bit of anxiety," Lucero said. "In fact, I was 11 years past when I should have gotten one."
Lucero finally made the appointment at the urging of her children, and after accompanying her husband to his appointment and thinking it didn't look like to terrible an experience.
She says the decision saved her life.
"They found a cancerous polyp that had started to spread," she said.
Colonoscopies are meant to catch polyps before they get that far. Dr. Brent Roeder of Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Digestive Health Center says most colon cancers start as little growths in the colon (polyps) and, if left alone, over time, those polyps have the potential to turn into cancer cells.
A study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine found that finding those polyps through colonoscopies and removing them cut the risk of dying from colon cancer by 53 percent. Doctors hope it convinces people the slight discomfort of the screening is worth it.
"When you're screening populations of people, you have to show it can make a difference," Roeder said.
Lucero says she's proof it does make a difference. She needed a follow-up procedure to remove more of an area around the cancerous polyp, but didn't require major surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. She's active volunteering for groups like Doorstep and has had an active three years since her cancer scare. In that time, she says, she's welcomed a great-grandchild , watched a granddaughter graduate and celebrated her 46th wedding anniversary.
"Those things wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't come kicking and screaming to see Dr. Roeder," she said. "Those few minutes can save your life."
Colonoscopies are recommended for all people starting at age 50, once every ten years if you're at average risk. If there's a family history, it's recommended screening begin ten years prior to the age at which the relative was diagnosed.