Matt Knutson: Encourage screenings for colon cancer

Published 7:44 pm Thursday, March 15, 2018

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“I feel like we should celebrate, but this could also become a big problem,” I told my wife after our daughter demonstrated that she could remove her diaper without assistance. Embracing this new form of freedom, Gracelyn did laps around the house a few times before we could catch her and bring her to the bathtub. A new form of independence had arrived, and we once again weren’t entirely prepared.

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We should have seen this one coming. For about a week, our eldest has been requesting to put on and take off her own clothes. Some days she is more successful than others. It may slow us down quite a bit, but it’s hard to say no to a little girl who confidently says, “Dada — I try!” Gracelyn’s achievement is coupled with the fact that her little sister, Maeva, is now rolling over. If anyone finds the pause button, we could use it over here. These kids really do grow up fast.

The diaper achievement would be a little more celebratory if our daughter was potty trained. We’re not behind in that regard, but we’re not ahead either. As Gracelyn takes off her diaper, she proudly says, “I poo-pooed.” Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step, right?

Because March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, I thought Gracelyn’s achievement might pair well with another sticky situation in our country: There are not enough people getting screened for colon cancer. The Colon Cancer Coalition, a nationwide nonprofit based out of the Twin Cities, recently shared that one in 20 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer in their lifetime. If one of those people is screened early, that person’s life could be saved.

Most doctors recommend screening begins at age 50, but if you’re having some unusual symptoms like change in bowel habits, blood in your stool or abdominal pain, you should probably set up an appointment with your local care team to determine if you should get screened before the recommended age. Additionally, if your family has a history of colon cancer or you are a member of the minority population, you should actually get screened earlier. This can greatly reduce your risk.

Thankfully, there are some great teams of researchers advancing both diagnostic options and treatment for colon cancer. You can learn more about various screening options at A lot of people avoid screening because they don’t want a colonoscopy, but there are some really fascinating new alternatives that are worth looking into for an initial screen.

The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, a national group of 1,500 organizations committed to fighting colorectal cancer, have set a goal to have 80 percent of people who should be screened for colon cancer completed by the year 2018. It’s bold, but great progress is being made. In Minnesota, we’re around 72 percent. You can be the one who helps us reach that goal.

A lot of the best things in life are about being a little uncomfortable. That’s exactly how Gracelyn makes me feel when she takes off her dirty diaper and runs around the house, and that’s how you might feel when you talk to someone about getting screened for colon cancer. But if your brief moment of discomfort is reward for saving someone’s life, doesn’t it all seem worth it? Take time to invite your loved ones to get screened. Give them a call, send an email, chat with them in person this weekend or when you see them for Easter. And when you do, take another play out of my daughter’s book. Run around the house victoriously, knowing that today you did what you could to make a difference in your loved one’s life.

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.