Waterloo (KWWL)-Getting cancer is no good, period. But imagine how frustrating it would be to get a disease that is highly preventable just because you failed to get screened.
In Health Plus a colon cancer survivor reminding you to get checked before it's too late.
As a school nurse in Cedar Falls, Karen Steffens is not used to being the patient. But that all changed when she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer last July.
"I was shocked. If you had told me that I was gonna have colon cancer, I wouldn't have believed you," said Karen Steffens.
The now 55-year-old lost a sister to colon cancer so she had her first colonoscopy at 45, then 50 and finally the one last year that uncovered a golf-ball sized mass.
Surgery removed ten inches of her colon and some lymph nodes followed by six months of twelve chemotherapy treatments. The 3-day drug cycle is given through a port.
Her oncologist at Covenant's Cancer Treatment Center in Waterloo says this combination drug therapy has improved survival rates and cut down on side effects in the 20 years he's treated cancer.
"We did not have so many drugs that we have today in the treatment of of colon cancer. We have clearly made a fabulous advancement," says Dr. Mukund Nadipuram.
He says the future of cancer treatment is tailoring it specifically to the patient through genetic testing.
"The future will be to find out each individual's genetic profile," he adds.
In the meantime, Karen encourages others, especially with a family history of cancer like her, to keep up with screenings.
"So you need to be aware of those kinds of things. So your colonoscopies, mammographies, your blood work, all those kinds of things become very important," she says.
Colon cancer, by the way, is 90-percent beatable with early detection.
Doctors say get a colonoscopy if you are 50 or older, sooner with a family history.