What You Need
To Know

“I volunteer so no one has to hear, ‘You have colon cancer.’”

– Nicole Cottone Obenski

Nicole’s Impact

When I think about Nicole, I think of how she made me feel. She spread so much love and warmth to everyone she met and she made everyone feel special and cared for. She let you know how much you meant to her everyday and in every way. That is an example and life lesson I strive to emulate in my own life. 

Once, when we sat at the large pep rally that we have here at Radnor High School she looked me in the eyes and said, “I am so happy to be alive and experiencing this!”  That love of life and joy radiated from Nicole, and I carry the image of her beaming smile with me always. 

Karen Trozzo

Biology and Environmental Science Teacher at Radnor High School , Colleague and Friend

Read more about Nicole’s Story

on The Amy Sobel Foundation Website.

Learn More About Colon Cancer

1 in 5 colorectal cancer patients are between 20 and 54 years old.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S.

People with a parent, sibling, or offspring with colorectal cancer have 2 or 3 times the risk of developing colon cancer compared to those with no family history of the disease.

One in three people 50 and older is not up-to-date on screening; many of them have never been screened at all.

Basic Facts About Colorectal Cancer

– Source

Colorectal cancer — cancer of the colon and rectum — is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It surpasses both breast cancer and prostate cancer in mortality when both men and women are combined. The general population faces a lifetime risk for developing the disease of about 5 percent. Colorectal cancer strikes men and women with almost equal frequency (4.49 vs 4.15%), while someone with a family history of colorectal cancer has a 10 to 15 percent chance of developing the disease. The risk rises to over 50 percent in people with ulcerative colitis and those whose family members harbor specific genetic mutations.

It is estimated that 147,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2020 and 53,200 people will die from the disease this year. Again, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States behind only lung cancer.


Colorectal cancer is often a silent disease, developing with no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur they may include the following:

  • Blood in or on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Frequent gas pains
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Constant tiredness, or new fatigue during activity that was previously tolerated

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor or health professional immediately.  While not everyone who has these symptoms will have colon cancer, persistance of these is not normal and requires additional investigation to determine the underlying cause.

YES! Polyp-related colorectal cancer can be prevented. The disease develops from benign polyps (mushroom-like growths on the lining of the colon and rectum). Removing these polyps before they become cancerous may prevent cancer from developing. Development of colorectal cancer can also be related to chronic inflammation from inflammatory bowel disease or from familial genetic syndromes. Discuss with your physician how early and how often screening and surveillance should be. 

A low-fat, high fiber diet, with at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruit, along with regular exercise can help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Heavy alcohol use, obesity and smoking have been linked to an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer can be cured in up to 90 percent of people when it is discovered in its early stages. It is estimated that over 40,000 lives a year could be saved through widespread adoption of colorectal cancer screening and early detection in men and women.

The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. All men and women aged 45* and older are at risk for developing colorectal cancer, and should be screened. Some people are at a higher risk and should be screened at an age younger than 45, including those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal cancer or polyps; ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer, prostate cancer or kidney cancer.

African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in advanced stages. Incidence for colorectal cancer in these groups have been on the rise — colorectal cancer has increased 46 percent among African-American men and 10 percent among African-American women.

Alaska Native women have the highest mortality from colorectal cancer than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States.

*In 2018, secondary to new data on the increased risks of colon cancer in those under 50, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery as well as the American Cancer Society changed recommendations to consider starting screening at age 45. 


Current screening methods include:

  • Fecal occult blood (test that can detect hidden blood in the stool)
  • FIT/stool DNA testing (tests that can detect presence of precancer/cancer cells in stool samples)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (a visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon that can performed in a doctor’s office)
  • Double contrast barium enema (barium x-ray)
  • Colonoscopy (a visual examination of the entire colon – the gold standard
  • Digital rectal exam (can feel masses lower in the rectum
  • Virtual colonoscopy, or CT colonography, is being used in some specific situations, but is not recommended as a mainstream screening test

Colorectal cancer screening, including colonoscopies, are covered by Medicare and many commercial health plans. Frequency of screening varies based upon modality used.


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