“One drop of blood changed my life,” says Teresa Davis-Mills, colorectal cancer survivor, colon health advocate and author of “I’m Not Sh*ttin You,” which details her fight with humor and heart.
Davis-Mills saw the first drop of blood but refused to think of it as a symptom, self-diagnosing that it would disappear in time. Time became weeks, then months. She didn’t appreciate the value of a doctor-recommended colonoscopy as a preventive screening.
She does now.
When Davis-Mills finally made an appointment for the test, she was diagnosed with stage 2B colon cancer. Today, her mission is to share her story to encourage others not to make the same mistake she did by postponing her first recommended colonoscopy.
Early symptoms of colorectal cancer can be subtle or silent.
The American Cancer Society now recommends the baseline screening be moved from age 50 to 45 due to an increased diagnosis of cancer in younger people age 18 to 50. Black men and women are at high risk and have the highest diagnoses and mortality rates from colorectal cancer — about 20% higher than whites, according to the American Cancer Society. Those of Eastern European descent, such as Ashkenazi Jews, are at high risk, too.
Colonoscopy is an effective visual tool for doctors to assess, diagnose and treat a patient all at the same time while looking inside the colon. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women combined. Its diagnoses have steadily increased by 2% annually for almost 20 years for those under age 50.
Davis-Mills addresses colonoscopy as the “gold standard” for colorectal cancer prevention.
“As a physician, it is my hope that her story encourages other people to make cancer screening a priority for themselves and their families and friends who love them,” said Leiah Walrod MD. “Colorectal cancer screening is one of the most unglamorous of all cancer screenings. But, as Teresa’s story shows us, it is every bit as important.”
Colorectal cancer staging and survival rates, according to the American Cancer Society, include: stage 1 — 90% survival rate in first five years of diagnosis, stage 4 — only 14% survival rate within first five years of diagnosis.
Davis-Mills’ compelling cancer story is told with humor and heart. The book is available on Kindle or paperback on Amazon.