Cancer Survivor Stresses Importance of Early Detection
Early detection of cancer through regular screenings can greatly increase survival rates because it identifies cancer when it’s most treatable, according to the National Cancer Institute. For that reason, survivors like Shara Fryer encourage others to get screened.
It certainly made a huge difference for Fryer. A journalist and former news anchor with KTRK-Channel 13 in Houston, Fryer was diagnosed with early stage colorectal cancer in 2002 and treated at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Fryer had always been a strong believer of early detection and in adherence with recommended colorectal cancer screening guidelines, received her first colonoscopy shortly after her 50th birthday. Prior to the screening, Fryer had not been experiencing any of the common symptoms associated with colorectal cancer.
“Diagnosing my cancer at an early stage gave me overwhelming odds for successful treatment,” said Fryer. According to the American Cancer Society, early stage colorectal cancer has an overall survival rate of 90 percent.
Survival rates are high for many other common cancers when detected early through screening.
- Breast cancer has a 98 percent survival rate.
- Prostate cancer has a nearly 100 percent survival rate.
- Cervical cancer has a 92 percent survival rate.
Now about five years since her initial diagnosis, Fryer still makes regular cancer screening exams a strong part of your life. She goes in for annual check-ups and a colonoscopy every three years as part of her follow-up care after cancer treatment.
Fryer also follows recommended screening guidelines for other common cancers, including breast cancer. “My mammograms are annual,” says Fryer.
Maintaining good health can be challenging for many cancer survivors who undergo intensive treatments. “I am continually worried about being struck with other “primary” cancers, but not overly so. For the most part, the issue is dealing with side effects from my radiation and chemotherapy treatment,” says Fryer, who experiences muscle shortening and steno sis, and obtains additional testing every six months to monitor potential gynecologic abnormalities detected over the past three years.
“Being diagnosed with cancer has affected my career, but I don't recognize that anyone assigns a stigma to my status as cancer survivor,” says Fryer, who left KTRK-Channel 13 earlier this year and is involved in various volunteer positions, including serving as president of the Houston World Affairs Council, a fellow of the American Leadership Forum, and an officer of the International Committee of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. She also maintains a busy schedule of speaking engagements for a variety of events and charities in Houston. “Most people are incredibly compassionate and supportive of my illness, recovery and, now, continuing good health.”
Fryer’s key message is to be aware of changes in your health and obtain regular screening exams. For those who receive a cancer diagnosis, she recommends seeking the best medical team and being open with family and friends because their support is crucial. “Get in touch with your faith, your loves, your sense of humor and your determination to survive,” says Fryer.
“I will always be grateful for the positive attitude of my M. D. Anderson team of caregivers. Because they took the time to answer every one of my questions, I felt empowered when facing my disease and treatment.”
For those who have not been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, M. D. Anderson recommends obtaining a colonoscopy every ten years beginning at age 50. For additional information on cancer screening guidelines and cancer survivorship, visit the Cancer Awareness and Prevention.
According to the National Cancer Institute, sixty four percent of adults diagnosed with cancer today can expect to be alive in five years. One in every six people over 65 is a cancer survivor, and 1.4 million of these cancer survivors were diagnosed more than 20 years ago.