University of Kentucky researcher shares battle with colon cancer


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Kentucky.

Last year, when actor Chadwick Boseman died aged 43, many didn’t know he was battling stage four colon cancer.

Boseman’s death was a wake-up call that colorectal cancer is on the rise in more and more young people.

Kentucky leads the country with the highest incidence rate for cancer, but a push for more education on the importance of screenings has helped try to reduce the numbers.

Amber Philpott of WKYT recently met a young PhD student and chemistry researcher at the University of Kentucky who is battling the deadly disease and using her own story to raise awareness.

In the laboratories of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, the goal is to study the brain.

For researcher Yueming “Ronnie” Wu, he spends his time studying ways to diagnose concussions in athletes earlier.

“I love sports and a lot of players or athletes get injured all the time, anything I can help,” said Yueming Wu.

For a scientist, Wu was quite tuned in to what could be going on in the human body, until he was not sure what was going on in his.

“Before that, I never stayed a single day in the hospital,” Wu said.

On Memorial Day weekend 2020, the then 27-year-old was planning to celebrate like many people, but his plans changed when he fell violently ill.

“A few days before I started to vomit and I was constipated, but not too bad. I don’t want to go to the emergency room just for that, ”Wu said.

Wu ended up in the University of Kentucky emergency room and would soon be in emergency surgery. Thinking he had a bowel obstruction, the doctors set to work to find out what was wrong and the surgery would lead to an unexpected discovery.

“They opened me up and saw a blockage and they tested it and sent it to the tracking lab, and they said it was cancer,” Wu said. He was diagnosed with stage colon cancer. four.

His plan of attack began immediately with his British medics.

“It was in poor condition,” said Dr. Zhonglin Hao. Wu underwent six months of targeted chemotherapy and then another surgery that included a procedure known as HIPEC.

The procedure removes any visible cancer from the abdomen, then uses a heated chemotherapy wash to kill any remaining cancer cells.

The procedure and its results was something his doctors say he responded to well.

“After the initial treatment, they came back to see how much disease was left in the abdomen and they couldn’t find it,” Dr Hao said.

With his age, no family history, and what he thought was a healthy lifestyle, Wu feels lucky. But he’s actually not the only one.

Over the past 30 years, colorectal cancer has increased in people under the age of 50, and in fact, Wu’s doctors say about 12% of diagnosed colorectal cancers occur in people under the age of 50.

“Young people aren’t used to hearing messages about symptoms and what can increase your risk factors,” said Mindy Rogers, director of the Kentucky Cancer Program-East.

Mindy Rogers of the Kentucky Cancer Program says education and early detection are essential. Screening should start at age 45 for people at medium risk.

Tests can include a colonoscopy and now home stool kits are another option for early detection.

“The sooner you find something, the more treatment options you have, and the easier it is to treat the whole thing, your chances of survival increase exponentially,” Rogers said.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can often be ruled out:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Nausea
  • Continued fatigue

Risk factors include obesity, lack of physical activity, and smoking, and Rogers says there’s another risk factor to be aware of.

“Knowing your family history will let you know if you have any inherited conditions that you need to be aware of or if you have relatives who have also had colon cancer, your risk is increased,” Rogers said.

You may be considered to be at higher risk and need screening before the age of 45 if:

  • You or a close relative have had colon polyps or colon cancer
  • You suffer from inflammatory bowel disease or certain hereditary diseases

Ronnie Wu wasn’t even someone who thought about colon cancer, but now he’s sharing his story to help educate others.

He’s back in the lab, a scientist focused on the health of others. As for his, there is currently no evidence of cancer, and he is grateful for it.

“I want to enjoy the little things in life and not take things for granted. It’s like a big lesson for me, ”Wu said.

To learn more about the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention Program, click here.

You can also learn more about the program by contacting Kentucky CancerLink, simply call 1-877-597-4655.

Copyright 2021 WKYT. All rights reserved.


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