Georgia woman urges others not to ignore cancer warning signs

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Laura Williams would love to push "rewind," and get the routine colonoscopy she says she put off for years.

"That's my biggest regret, is that I didn't do my screening," Williams says.  "Because I let the fear of it, and the horror stories of the prep and everything, stop me. I was, like, 'I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to do that.'"

Then, in January of 2018, the 57-year old Cobb County woman developed abdominal pain and fatigue that went on for months.

By mid-summer, she could no longer ignore it.

"It wasn't just your average pain anymore, and people were noticing I was walking strangely at work," Williams remembers. "I was hunched over.  And I was finally, like, 'I've got to do something.'"

When Williams finally went to her physician, he ordered a colonoscopy.  ATL Colorectal Surgery colorectal surgeon Dr. Monica Hum broke the bad news to Williams.

"It was colon cancer and, ultimately, she needed surgery to remove the colon cancer," Dr. Hum says. "If she'd done her preventive screening, we could have caught it earlier. About 90% of colon cancers can be prevented by screening."

Dr. Hum says many things can cause abdominal pain.

"It's not always cancer," she says.  "Sometimes it is constipation, or sometimes it is irritable bowel syndromes. Sometimes it's an ulcer."

Dr. Hum says be on the lookout for new or severe symptoms that come on suddenly.

If you have chronic symptoms that come and go or drag on for more than 2 weeks, she says, go see your doctor.

Laura Williams hopes people won't put off their recommended screenings, like she did.

"Because as a result, mine spread outside the colon, and I had to have my right ovary removed, my right fallopian tube removed," Williams says.  "My entire lifestyle has changed. This is a life-changing event when you let this go and you don't get yourself seen about it."

Many medical groups recommend getting screened for colorectal surgery beginning at the age of 50.

Dr. Hum says the American Cancer Society recently recommended people start the screenings 5 years earlier at 45.