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Sally-Ann Roberts: New cancer guidelines could have saved my first husband

"Dr. (Brobson) Lutz called me when I got off the air and said, 'You need to go to Baptist (Hospital) immediately. It's serious,'" she remembers.

For the first time, cancer experts are lowing the age for your first colon screening, from 50 to 45 years of age.

That's because colon cancer is rising in younger people, but it's unclear why.

One of our well-known former colleagues, Sally-Ann Roberts, has a heart-felt, personal message about the new recommendation.

"He was the one who is the reason why I went into television news. He believed in me. He was a wonderful husband," Sally-Ann Roberts said of her late husband.

Sally-Ann met her husband Willie Craft in college. But after 25 years of marriage, she remembers the day he had a bad stomach ache. The diagnosis was not good.

"Dr. (Brobson) Lutz called me when I got off the air and said, 'You need to go to Baptist (Hospital) immediately. It's serious,'" she remembers.

It was stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his liver. Willie was only 49 years old.

"We prayed for a miracle in this very room. We prayed for a miracle," Roberts recalled.

Seven months later he was gone. Willie is one of the many who could have been helped by lowering guidelines for a first colon screening from 50 years of age to 45. It's the new recommendation of the American Cancer Society after reviewing the data.

"We have seen, I'm sorry to say, a dramatic increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer in young and middle age adults," explained Dr. Terry Fontham, a Cancer Epidemiologist and Founding Dean of the LSU School of Public Health. She is now a Professor Emeritus there.

Dr. Fontham co-chaired the national committee that reviewed the data and believes the new recommendation can save lives.

"If a polyp can be found and removed, you've taken care of the future tumor. It's gone," Dr. Fontham said.

"If Willie had gotten a colonoscopy just five years earlier, not waiting until the age of 50 to get his first colonoscopy, he would be alive today. I have no doubt," said Roberts.

But until a U. S. government panel says the same, insurance companies are not mandated to pay for the earlier screening.

"It is so important that people get their diagnosis early. And I say to the insurance companies out there, 'Just do it. Follow science, not mathematics,'" Roberts said stressing the deaths and not the bottom line profits.

Sally-Ann has been happily re-married now for 10 years.

Risk factors for colon cancer: Obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet, family history, smoking, personal history of polyps in your colon.

The complete recommendations for colon cancer screenings from the American Cancer Society click here:


Diet to lower your colon cancer risk:


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