POSTED: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 8:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 8:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Dental assistant Tonya Brinson is a colon cancer survivor.
Brinson was diagnosed in 2007 when she was only 41.
She called a specialist when she started bleeding.
'Within a week of that time, he set me up with a colonoscopy, and thank God he did that,' Brinson said. 'He saved my life.'
A study in The New England Journal of Medicine presented hard evidence that colonoscopies prevent death.
The test gives a doctor the ability to see the colon and remove any suspicious growths.
'This study shows, by removing polyps, these precancerous growths in the colon, that doing a colonoscopy actually reduces colon cancer deaths by 53 percent, and this is really a big deal,' said Dr. Brain Dooreck, chief of gastroenterology at Memorial Regional Hospital South.
Only 60 percent of people who should be screened actually have a colonoscopy.
The new Affordable Care Act should help change that statistic and provide financial incentive for patients to do so.
'This is now a law that states there's no out of pocket, no copayment, no cost for screening colonoscopy, and this has all changed within the last year to promote screening,' Dooreck said.
Dooreck performed Brinson's colonoscopy.
She had symptoms that other doctors dismissed.
'Dizzy spells, sometimes I had profuse night sweats. I would have heart palpitations, bloating. Sometimes I would have some pain under my rib cage like burning sensation,' Brinson said of her symptoms.
The goal is to do a colonoscopy before there are symptoms.
The screening guidelines have changed in the last few years.
'For African Americans age 45, or age 50 for the general population. Again, if you have a family history or other changes it's earlier, even at age 40,' said Dooreck.
Brinson was too young to fit into the guidelines and had no family history.
For adults under age 50 at no increased risk, the incidence of colon cancer has been increasing yearly since 1998.