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WPTV reporter survives colon cancer, encourages people to get colonoscopies

5 ways to keep your colon healthy
Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 10:42:24-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The CDC says colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer-related death. The American Cancer Society adds that one in 23 men and one and 25 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer over their lifetime. That group includes one of WPTV's own, myself, T.A. Walker, and a colon cancer survivor in Boynton Beach Suzy Levitt. Both of us vigorously recommend people get their screenings.

5 Ways To Keep Your Colon Healthy

  1. Alcohol in moderation
  2. Maintain a healthy weight
  3. Exercising regularly
  4. Eat well, maintain a healthy microbiome (eat green veggies, fruits, no meat, tree nuts)
  5. Colon cancer screenings (Colonoscopies)

"As I woke up. He said, 'Yes, it's cancer,'" said Levitt.

Levitt hadn't been feeling well and put off getting her colonoscopy. "I put it off, put it off. I didn't want to do it," admitted Levitt.

She eventually had the diagnostic procedure and was given the ominous cancer diagnosis while she was still in the fog from the anesthesia and in shock.

"Who are you talking to? Are you sure it's me? Did you read it correctly? What's going on?," recalled Levitt.

She went to see Dr. Juliet Ray and the next step was surgery with a robotic. "We planned for her a robotic resection of her right colon to help her recover faster from that procedure and also have [fewer] risks of infection and other complications post-op," said Dr. Juliet J. Ray, MD of JFK Medical Center.

"You heal faster from the robot," Levitt proudly boasted, "I've been very surprised at how well the healing process has gone."

"But with our newer equipment and our newer techniques, it's actually not as bad as you may think," said Dr. Ray.

"[Dr. Ray] gave me back my life, because how I feel now is like night and day," Levitt said thankfully.

Levitt celebrated her win over colon cancer, "I was like, 'Ring the bell?' 'It's over? Oh my goodness.'"

It's the same bell I would ring a month later.

I had signs since 2002 that something was wrong. In my '20s the doctor, at the time, chalked it up to me having hemorrhoids. But in 2021 I was diagnosed with stage 1 colon cancer.

"I hear this story way too often," said Dr. Jorge E. Marcet, MD of Tampa General Hospital, "But you don't know unless you have an investigation, and an investigation is to look inside."

"Sometimes you have to be your own advocate and say, 'No, I hear colon cancer is common. Why don't we do an exam for a piece of mind,'" said Dr. Marcet.

Ways To Keep Your Colon Healthy

In May of last year, the National Cancer Institute lowered the recommended age for colonoscopies from 50 to 45.

"Colon cancer rates are going up in people younger than 50... ... I suspect it's going to lower more," said Marcet.

Marcet's research team saw startling results about people getting colon cancer, "We are still seeing it in people younger than 45... People in their '20s, '30s, and early '40s."

I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 44 by Dr. Ray. My cancer journey a short five weeks long. It all started with finally getting that dreaded colonoscopy.

"Go do it. Take care of yourself," urged Levitt

Marcet said there are obvious things you can do to reduce your chances of getting colon cancer.

"Well, healthy life starts with you. Right," said Marcet who works for Florida's top-rated hospital. "So healthy lifestyle. So alcohol in moderation, not being overweight, exercising regularly, you know, all the things you hear about other health issues. It's the same amazingly you know, it affects your health in so many ways colon cancer being one eating you know, lots of fruits and vegetables, particularly green vegetables. Having a diet that's low and meat," said Marcet noting fish is not counted as meat.

"Studies that have looked at people with colon cancer that have regular servings of tree nuts weekly do better overall their survival than people that don't regularly eat tree nuts avoiding excess calories," said Marcet.

"The World Health Organization about three years ago came out with a statement that processed foods processed meats, excuse me, are considered carcinogenic just like cigarettes. Processed meats can cause colon cancer, they actually have made that statement from the World Health Organization."