BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the U.S. But it's also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers; if detected early.
Regular screenings for colorectal cancer, with colonoscopies, are recommended for people 50 and older; earlier if you have a family history or abnormal symptoms.
Chris Harris of Biloxi was only in her 40s when she started having abnormal symptoms.
"I had some pain and felt like I had to go to the bathroom and there was nothing coming out. Then I started having rectal bleeding," Harris remembered.
At 46, she was diagnosed with rectal cancer. It was an even bigger blow for Chris who had already suffered an unexpected stroke a year earlier.
"I had just learned to walk again after the stroke when I got the news. It was a shock. I never thought it would be cancer. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't expect cancer."
Doctors at the Digestive Health Center in Ocean Springs ordered a colonoscopy and discovered the rectal cancer. Shortly after the diagnosis, Chris had surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
"We were able to catch it soon enough. It definitely saved my life."
Chris continues to get regular checkups and is now having a colonoscopy every six months. That may change to once a year after she's cancer-free for two years.
At 48, she has already survived a serious stroke and rectal cancer. Her ordeal with two life threatening diseases has taught her to make the most of every moment. She hopes her story will remind others, that you are never too young to suffer unexpected and serious health problems.
"Listen to your body. Anything abnormal; bleeding, aches, pains, anything that feels different, go to the doctor. If your first doctor doesn't make you comfortable, go to another one. I went to more than one before I got a diagnosis."