Colon Cancer Awareness Month

It doesn't get the attention that some other cancers do and it can quickly become the butt of jokes, but colon cancer is no laughing matter. More than 10,000 Floridians will be diagnosed with it this year.

Julius Erving is known for his prowess on the basketball court, scoring more than 30,000 points in his career. Now, he's trying to make a very serious point. Colon cancer can kill you. It killed his sister and it killed Larry Buck's son.

"I think it was the 13th or 12th of January that he was diagnosed (1998) and he died on January 29, 1999 leaving behind a wife and at that time a two-year-old daughter," says Larry Buck.

Chip Buck was only 29 when he died of colon cancer. That's rare, as 90 percent of patients are over the age of 50. Yet in retrospect, his father says Chip had all the warning signs of trouble: bleeding from his rectum, soreness, they thought it was hemorrhoids.

It turned out to be a tumor the size of a plum, and it killed his son within one year.

"The reason we do this is we're looking for polyps which are benign growths, some of which can turn into tumors," Buck says.

Dr. James Stockwell, a gastroenterologist, says, "We're convinced if they go through the screening we'll definitely save some lives, it's already been proven."

The first step in being checked for colon cancer is to provide a stool sample for your doctor, which can be tested for hidden blood. Doctors recommend it every year.

The next step is a sigmoidoscopy. It's a procedure that can be done right in your doctor's office. Those are recommended every five years, and a colonoscopy sends a camera up the full length of your colon, about five feet. It's usually done at the hospital and is recommended every 10 years.

Talking about colonoscopies and colon cancer is taboo for a lot of people, but Larry Buck will go just about anywhere to encourage just about anyone to know the warning signs and get screened.

"I don't want other people to have to hear the words, 'You have cancer or your son has cancer or your husband.' I want to do whatever I can, as little as it is, to help eradicate this disease," Larry says.

This subject makes a lot of people squirm in their seats. While 80 to 90 percent of people comply with cancer screenings like mammograms and pap smears, only about one in three people actually follows through with a colon screening.