KALISPELL, Mont. - Nationwide, doctors are seeing a decrease in colon cancer patients and survival rate, a large part is credited to early detection. It's the third most common diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of death in both men and women.
According to American Cancer Society colon cancer has dropped 30% in the last 10 years for people ages 50 and older. Still, about 5%, or 1 in 20, Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer in their lifetime.
"It was December 29th, I was scheduled for surgery, I remember walking in that morning thinking it was just going to be another surgery, and when I came out of it, it changed my life, the life of my family forever," said Robert Zunick.
In 2009, Robert Zunick thought he was going into surgery for his diverticulosis, but when he came out of surgery, he found out something completely unexpected.
"You have stage four colon cancer, and that shocked me," Zunick.
Robert has no history of colon cancer in his family. The news was alarming to both him and his family. Despite everyone's positivity with Robert, the statistics weren't on his side.
"Over five years, drops from 90-percent to 70-percent, and once the disease has spread to distant sights away from the colon, the five year survival is as low as 12-percent," said Robert Yacavone, Gastroenterologist at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
But Robert and his family never gave up hope, even though some days were a challenge. Robert fought through colon cancer for a little over three years and was just told he's cancer free this past March. The journey through his cancer has made him more appreciative in life.
"All the things we may take for granted on a daily basis, I embrace those things and I cherish them in my heart," said Zunick.
Dr. Yacavone told NBC Montana that if they could get everyone into testing for colon cancer by age 50, they could reduce the rates by up to 80%.