Nancy Welch and Dr. George Blestel revisited the First Friday luncheon one year after Welch announced being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Just seeing them both together, at the Greer Chamber of Commerce, one year after Welch and Blestel began their public crusade in battling colorectal cancer, was reason for a celebration. Welch has undergone surgery, chemo treatments and an intensive rehabilitation from the disease. The timeliness of March being National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month was appropriate for Blestel's presentation and Welch's confirmation of the wisdom of prevention.
Welch and Blestel painted an encouraging picture of preventive care combined with a solemn landscape of a disease that will affect 35,000 people in Greenville/Spartanburg over their lifetime. Males and females are affected equally. It is the second leading cause of deaths from cancer.
"Put a yard sign out if you have to," Welch said. "Tell people they should have colorectal cancer screening if your 50 years old or older." To emphasize the point, rolls of toilet tissue with bold wording "You will need it" were placed in the center of each table.
Welch, a public icon in the Upstate, is personally tackling colorectal cancer prevention head-on. "Goodness, just think would could have happened if I had not had a screening," Welch said. "The good news is I'm cancer free and you can be too."
Blestel emphasized that screenings are the key, affordable and many health plans and Medicare help pay for the screening. "For the most part this is a preventable disease. Only thirty-seven percent of people in the upstate are getting a colonoscopy."
Sixty deaths in the Greenville/Spartanburg area were attributed to colorectal cancer last year," Bletsel said.
While walking to her car after the luncheon, Welch softly said, "I'm sort of surprised I'm still here. Just think what might have been if I hadn't had the screening."
By the numbers
140,000 new cases per year
56,000 deaths per year
2nd leading cause of deaths from cancer
35,000 people in Greenville/Spartanburg over their lifetime
Screening is the key
Colonoscopy is the most effective screening method.
Asymptomatic patients with no risk factors start at age 50. Risk Factors:
Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
Previous history of polyps or colorectal cancer
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inherited colorectal syndromes
Patients with risk factors should be screened earlier
Want more information?
Call 864-591-1664 or 864-269-5500. Visit www.ghssurgery.org.