Colorectal cancer survivor in San Luis shares his story and is spreading awareness
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and spotlights this disease - 13 On Your Side's Vanessa Gongora spoke with a local survivor about why getting checked is important
SAN LUIS, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second deadliest cancer in the United States, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Matias Rosales, San Luis city council member and owner of Realty One Group Gateway, is 10 years cancer free and says he still gets tested every year.
"The type of tumor I had is very rare. It's one of those like winning the lottery I guess or the lotto," explains Rosales.
Rosales says he started to feel pain after getting a vasectomy.
He thought it was because of the surgery, but after getting it checked out, he found out it was a cancerous tumor in the colon area that was causing the discomfort.
Thankfully, it was caught early.
"30 days later, I'm having surgery. Had that removed and then went through treatment for about five years after that. Medication every month that they had to provide for me here at the Yuma Cancer Center and also the Mayo Clinic," says Rosales.
He says the doctor told him he was lucky because if he didn't have the vasectomy, he would have gone six to seven months without knowing he had cancer and it would have been a different turnout.
Sharing a message
Rosales shares a message to current cancer patients.
"Don't give up. You can't give up because life is important. You want to be here the next day. It's a battle and just push forward. I mean, I would say I had five reasons. I have four kids and my wife that were the reason to keep up," says Rosales.
Rosales says colon cancer does not run in his family so it was a big surprise for him, especially at the age of 35.
Because Rosales was the first in his family to be diagnosed with CRC, his two siblings were told to get tested right away and doctors suggested his 23-year-old son get tested by 25.
He says it's better safe than sorry.
"Especially with all the food that we eat nowadays that's processed and fast food and you know, we don't have the same diets that out grandparents had. So all that also changes," describes Rosales.
Death rate higher in men
Dr. Arun Raajasekar, medical oncologist at Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) says the death rate of CRC is slightly higher in men compared to women.
"It's generally recommended patients start get colonoscopy starting at age 45," explains Dr. Raajasekar.
But if there is family history of colon cancer, you should start much earlier.
What are some of the symptoms?
"The most common symptom of colon cancer is usually blood in the stool. Unexplained weight loss, if you're having a change in your bowel frequency. If you feel you have to strain a lot where you're becoming more constipated, that's another sign," says Dr. Raajasekar.
He adds, if people above 60 years of age develop anemia, iron deficiency anemia, colon cancer should definitely be ruled out.
Dr. Raajasekar, says stool DNA tests are not as good as colonoscopies, but are a good screening test.
"Something is better than nothing, so the stool DNA tests can find early stage cancers," explains Dr. Raajasekar.
You can ask your primary care provider for a test kit.
He says getting tested matters because even with stage two or three colon cancer, there is a high chance of cure with surgery and chemo therapy.