Harry Connick Jr. talks colon cancer screening options

Multitalented musician, actor and TV host Harry Connick Jr. boasts a phenomenal career, but the Grammy and Emmy Award-winner has faced adversity too. Connick lost his mother to ovarian cancer when he was only 13 years old, and in 2012, his wife Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today, Jill is cancer free and credits routine screening with saving her life.

“She would go in to get her routine mammogram every year because she believed very strongly in early screening and detection and then when she got the positive result back, it really threw us for a loop and we were terrified,” Connick told Fox News.

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That's why Connick is teaming up with Cologuard and the New 50 campaign to raise awareness on another cancer whose timely screening is crucial, colon cancer.

“This is a very serious issue, 50,000 people die every year from it [colon cancer] and it’s the most detectable cancer and the least detected,” Connick said. “So I feel it’s my duty to tell people you have to get screened.”

According to findings presented at the French Surgeons Association Congress, if detected early, 90 percent of colon cancers are highly treatable.

Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 or older.

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In addition to age, risk factors include having inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or having a family history of colorectal cancer, according to the CDC. Lifestyle factors can also contribute to an increase risk, like obesity, alcohol and tobacco use, and a diet low in fiber and high in fat.

Connick turned 50 last year.

“I was dreading it because I didn’t want to take time out of my day, I didn’t want to deal with the prep or the discomfort and I was terrified,” Connick said. “And Jill would make a joke [saying], ‘Well, maybe we can make a double date and have like a colonoscopy double date.’”

Connick decided to get screened by doing Cologuard, a stool DNA test, but according to the American Cancer Society other screening options can include a colonoscopy, a double-contrast barium enema, a type of X-ray test, or a Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is similar to a colonoscopy but looks at only part of the colon and rectum.

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“It’s all about early detection and taking the time to do it,” Connick said.

Screening tests aren’t just used to find colorectal cancer early, they can also find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

It is important to take these preventive steps, as colon cancer may not cause symptoms right away. But some signs and symptoms involve fatigue, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, and cramping or abdominal discomfort.