RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – If you are 50 years old or over, don’t be an absolute idiot like yours truly and NOT be screened for colon cancer.

This is Colon Cancer Awareness month – and believe me, I’m painfully aware of the deadly disease that kills 50,000 Americans a year. I’m one of the survivors.

Three years ago, ironically in March, doctors diagnosed me with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. In other words, the cancer had penetrated the wall of the colon. Had I been tested at age 50 as I should have been, the cancer would have at least been caught at a much earlier stage and my chances of surviving five years would have been enhanced greatly.

Now, each morning I bear the painful reminder that even though lots of prayer, two rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery that removed most of my colon and divine intervention saved my life my body will never be the same.

I’m off to see two doctors today because the medication I’m taking has lost its effectiveness in dealing with – well, to say so politely – plumbing pain and other problems, such as neuropathy.

Why am I sharing this? Because I’m hoping someone somewhere will read this and call the doctor for an exam. I am far from alone in being an idiot.

“We know that 50 percent of Americans who should be getting screening for this largely preventable disease are not," said Dr. Grace H. Elta, who is president of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, in a statement issued today along with new recommendations for colon cancer screening. "The data show that screening saves lives and efforts to increase colon cancer awareness and screening will help patients through earlier detection."

This morning, the American Cancer Society and other allies announced new recommendations for colon cancer screenings – virtual colonoscopy and a stool DNA test. These are the first consensus guidelines as developed by the Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology, and the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer.

Other groups are pitching in as well. As we noted in Local Tech Wire on Wednesday, Salix Pharmaceuticals in Raleigh is working with Walgreens and the Colon Cancer Alliance in an attempt to heighten public awareness.

So do yourself – and your family – a favor. Make yourself aware of all the news readily available about colon cancer. The technological advances made since I was diagnosed have been tremendous. Medication also has improved.

See the doctor. The visit may save your life.