PLAINVIEW, Long Island (WABC) -- March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and one woman hopes her fight helps spread that mission.
The rate of colon cancer among younger adults is increasing, even though most people don't start getting screened until they're 45.
"I don't want it to be a pity party, that's not what it's about," Anna Canale said. "It's about fighting this."
And she knows it is a fight for her life. The mother of three from Plainview is only 44, but two weeks before Christmas -- as her family was gearing up for the holidays -- she wasn't feeling right.
"I knew there was something wrong," she said. "I had a lot of pressure and pain in the abdomen area."
It got so bad that she ended up in the ER on December 26, alone because of COVID, facing a frightening Stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis.
"I have 18 to 20 spots on my liver," she said. "So the colorectal mass was the size of a softball."
She said what's frustrating is that her symptoms came on pretty suddenly back when she was much younger, about 20, and she actually had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with a lazy bowel. But the cancer diagnosis came out of nowhere.
Canale appears to have no genetic mutations for cancer, though her mother had breast cancer 20 years ago. So if anything, she had been extremely pro-active about that.
The American Cancer Society recommends screening for colorectal cancer at age 45 and up, down from age 50. But the death rate for those ages 20 to 54 has actually been increasing for years now..
Canale says we need to do more.
"I honestly think that in your 30s, that you should be screened," she said.
Experts say that at the very least, when it comes to discussing colon cancer, don't be afraid to go there.
They also suggest talking to your doctor to assess your risk.
As for Canale, she's a fighter who just finished her first round of chemotherapy and is about to start more in the coming weeks.
CLICK HERE to learn more about colon cancer and screenings.
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