COLDEN, N.Y. (WKBW) — When people see Kevin Hays of Colden they always tell him he doesn't look like he has cancer. But he's been battling with colorectal cancer for seven years.
“That’s great, no one wants to look like a cancer patient. It sometimes can be more of an invisible disease,” said Hays.
He was diagnosed at 28. 7 Eyewitness News brought you his story last year. We caught up with him a year later for an update.
“My cancer has come back and I am stage 4. I have metastases within my stomach cavity, we took some organs out that I don’t need all that much, so I’m a little lighter," said Hays.
Hays likes to lighten things around the conversation of colorectal cancer so it's easier to talk about when spreading awareness.
“Too many people think of it as an old man’s disease and that’s not the case,” said Hays.
It’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cancer among men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. And it can affect anyone.
“The diagnosis of colon cancer has been dropping to a younger age,” said Michelle Wysocki, Program Director of Erie County Cancer Services.
There’s a90% cure rate when it’s caught early, that’s why it’s so important to get screened, according to the Cancer.net.
Around 70% of New York State residents are up to date on their screenings, which sounds good, but most of those people are over 65.
So who should get screened and when?
The American Cancer Society recommends you start getting screened at 45. Potentially earlier if someone in your family had colorectal cancer or if you have a history of bowel disease.
Which test should I get?
There are plenty of options.
“When we talk about screening people immediately jump to the colonoscopy and think I don’t want to go through all that, but there’s options, take home kits," said Wysocki.
There are at home tests which are just a stool sample that you send in the mail. It’s definitely an easier option, but they need to be done more often, once a year. Other tests like colonoscopies don’t have to be done annually, but are a bit more invasive. Wysocki says talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
The county’s program also covers the uninsured and underinsured for screening, just give them a call at 716-858-7376.
"So there’s no excuse, there really is no excuse," said Wysocki.
Are there warning signs?
Warning signs to watch for are unexplained weight loss, change in bowel habits and abdominal pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Throughout the month, Hays and the Buffalo colon corps will be accepting donations and wearing blue to spread awareness.
So he can shed more light on this invisible disease.
"I do think we are making progress, I do think we have a long way to go," said Hays.