Family history of colon cancer leads Tami Schwank to get a colonoscopy

Written by Community Health Network on 10/29/2013 11:30:00 AM

“My father-in-law was in and out of the hospital due to advanced prostate cancer.” He said to me, “You need to slow down – do something for others.”

At the time, Tami, a wife, mother of three, grandmother and daughter-in-law was a busy woman helping her father-in-law the best way she knew how. When he lost his battle with cancer, Tami took his words to heart and shifted her priorities. Today, she volunteers for the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program. Tami lives in Columbus, Indiana, and on any given week she volunteers to drive and help cancer patients get to their appointments in Indianapolis, the VA or Columbus Hospital for necessary treatments and follow-up care.

Three years ago, Tami’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer and they found a tumor the size of a lemon in his colon. The surgery involved removing the tumor and 12 inches of his colon. Today at 72 years of age, Tami’s dad is surviving cancer. Tami felt her dad’s cancer was another wake-up call. At Tami’s annual physical and being 50 years old, she and her physician felt it was time to get screened for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy. That decision lead Tami to Community Health Network’s Regional Cancer Care Center. On October 29, 2013, Tami had a colonoscopy “with a spin” – webcast LIVE at

The words of her father-in-law come back: “Do something for others.” The webcast shows what the doctor sees through the colonoscopy and as part of the program viewers were able to ask colorectal surgeon Dr. Shekar Narayanan questions about colorectal cancer.  

Having a colonoscopy was the right thing to do, says Tami. In fact, all of Tami’s sisters felt the same way, because “family history is such a strong link to colon cancer.”

According to the American Cancer Society, a man or woman with a parent, sibling or child who has had colon cancer has two to three times the risk of developing this cancer than someone who has no family history. Overall, approximately 20 percent of colon cancer is inherited or associated with a strong history of colon cancer in the family.

Tami didn’t have any symptoms such as blood in the urine or stool, but the family history could not be ignored. Other risk factors shouldn't be ignored either. Men and women have a 1 in 20 lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society 2013 Cancer Facts report that colon cancer is the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the U.S. This year, it is estimated 142,820 men and women will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 50,830 will die from colon cancer.

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