March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and one Alabama woman hopes people will know what to look for after hearing her story.

Bonny Huddleston of Wedowee, Ala., has been completely clear of colorectal cancer since 2020. She was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 46. Having battled breast cancer before, she was quickly alarmed when she started experiencing symptoms.

“I started having issues, so I knew something wasn’t right,” said Huddleston.

According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death. The Alliance predicts 151,030 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2022, and 52,580 people will die from it.

Huddleston said she doesn’t have a family history of colorectal cancer but does with other types of cancer. She also has a mutated BRCA2 gene, which is associated with an increased risk of many types of cancer.

Huddleston stressed the importance of asking for a second opinion when screened.

“When I first started having some issues, I had gone to the doctor to try to find out what was going on, and they were misdiagnosing me,” said Huddleston.

After her diagnosis in 2012, Huddleston had to go through six months of chemotherapy and 31 treatments of radiation, followed by surgery to remove her tumor. For eight months, she had to wear a colostomy bag. She received chemo again after her surgery and scheduled regular checkups with her doctors to obtain blood work.

Preventative Screening

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance recommends that all men and women be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45 because the disease is easily treatable if caught early. 

Those with a family history of colorectal cancer should consider getting screened at age 40 or 10 years before the youngest case in the immediate family, whichever is earliest.

When physicians look for colorectal cancer, they typically perform a colonoscopy to detect polyps, a small clump of cells that occasionally turn into cancer. If a physician sees a polyp during a colonoscopy, they can remove it. 

Colonoscopies are not the only screening option, however. Other screening methods, such as structural or visual exams and at-home stool tests, have been made available as technology has advanced. It would be best if you discussed which screening option is preferable with a physician.

Huddleston said anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention right away.

“If there are any changes in your bowel that stay changed - discoloration, or anything like that - it’s just better to be safe than sorry and not wait until you’re 50,” said Huddleston.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance hopes to use this month to spread information about colorectal cancer and encourage those at risk to consider getting screened by a physician. 

The Alliance encourages people to wear blue for colorectal cancer awareness and talk to their friends and family about screening. 

The median age of diagnosis for colorectal cancer is 66, but the disease affects an increasing number of young people. African Americans have experienced a 20% higher incidence rate of colorectal cancer and a 40% higher death rate.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include changing bowel habits, persistent abdominal discomfort, rectal bleeding, weakness, fatigue and unexplained weight loss. Some individuals with colorectal cancer do not experience symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease.

Around one out of every four people with colorectal cancer have at least one immediate family member or multiple second-degree relatives who were diagnosed with the disease under the age of 60.


Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on its size, location and spread. There are five stages of colorectal cancer, ranging from Stage 0 to Stage IV, Stage IV being the most severe where cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Common treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Preventative Lifestyle Changes

A diet high in vegetables, fruits and other plant foods, combined with regular daily exercise, may reduce the risk for colorectal cancer and other diseases. Those concerned about lowering their risk can also keep red meat intake equal to or below 18 ounces per week and avoid processed meats as much as possible.

Obesity is associated with a higher polyp risk, a possible precursor to cancer. Maintaining a healthy body weight is an essential factor in mitigating cancer risk.

People who consume more than 3.5 alcoholic beverages per day can reduce cancer risk by limiting consumption. Smoking cigarettes also increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

For information about how you can help spread colorectal cancer awareness, check out the Colorectal Cancer Alliance website here.

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