Colon cancer survivor talks about importance of screening, early detection

Amy Miller was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 30.
Amy Miller was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 30.(Amy Miller)
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 8:03 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Health experts have recently reported a rise in colon cancer cases found in younger adults across the United States, but they don’t have many answers yet as to why.

Almost nine years cancer-free, Amy Miller is raising awareness for the disease and stresses the importance of getting screened.

Miller is a Registered Nurse in the inpatient operating room at UW Health.

“You see a lot of crazy things but at the same time you’re like am I just overreacting? Am I being a little bit of a hypochondriac? Is this really something to worry about?” she said.

At 30 years old and with no family history of the disease, Miller was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer. She just had her third child and was experiencing symptoms like bleeding.

As time went on, she knew something was off.

“It came as a shock. Especially when you have a provider tell you you’re too young for this disease and it turns out you’re not,” Miller said. “I think it would’ve been a very different outcome if I wouldn’t have gotten tested when I did and then I might not be here today to talk about it.”

In the span of ten months, Miller underwent multiple surgeries, radiation and rounds of both oral and IV chemotherapies.

Dr. Sam Lubner, Amy Miller’s oncologist at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, said colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States with about 150,000 cases a year and around 50,000 deaths. Dr. Lunber said the good news is there are ways of preventing colon cancer like screenings.

“So, it is the kind of thing that cancer doesn’t really care how old you are,” Lubner said.

Miller is a huge advocate for early screenings and knowing your body. She said her three daughters will get screened early for colon cancer as they get older.

“It is a great joy in an oncologist’s life when we get to say ‘I never want to see you again’ and have the patient say ‘I never want to see you again either,’” Lubner said. “Of course, we sort of laugh about that but it’s fun to see her working here at the hospital and every once in a while just sort of give her a knowing high five in the hospital knowing that’s she’s been where the patients have been.”

The annual Bowlin’ for Colons fundraiser benefits others with stories, like Miller’s.

“Whether it’s supporting funding for future research so that as my children grow, hopefully their risk will be lower because maybe we’ll have some more answers. And to just encourage people to get screened. It can seem like a scary thing, like an invasive thing but it’s really not so bad. The outcomes can be very important,” Miller said.

Bowlin’ for Colons is on Sunday, March 12. NBC15 is a proud sponsor of this year’s fundraising event.

Click here to download the NBC15 News app or our NBC15 First Alert weather app.