Sharon Osbourne, best known for her role as the heavy metal mom on MTV's "The Osbournes" reality show, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002. Her family rallied around her and she took the diagnosis in stride. Reportedly, she encouraged daughter Kelly to return to New York City for recording sessions and husband Ozzy to continue with his Ozzfest tour. The reality series went on as scheduled for a second season, and cameras followed Sharon as she underwent treatment.
The 49 year old, who has no family history of colon cancer, had surgery to remove a foot of large intestine and some surrounding lymph nodes on July 3rd, 2002. One of the lymph nodes tested positive for cancer which indicated that the disease had spread beyond her colon. Osbourne underwent chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells that weren't removed during her surgery.
Even though colon cancer is curable when caught early, it is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 25% of the US population are considered to be at risk for colon cancer.
Risk factors for colon cancer include a family history, a personal history of colon cancer or polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, age over 50, obesity and smoking. Risk of colon cancer can be decreased by participating in even moderate amounts of exercise, losing weight, not smoking, and eating a lowfat, vegetable-rich diet.
Colon cancer screening is integral to catching the disease early when it is most curable. Beginning at age 50, The American Cancer Society recommends a fecal occult blood test every year, a sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, and either a barium enema every 5 to 10 years or a colonoscopy every 10 years to screen for colorectal cancer. In people who are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer due to ulcerative colitis, family history of colorectal cancer, or familial polyposis, screening may be recommended as early as puberty.
Osbourne underwent resection surgery, which is the most common kind of surgery for colon cancer. The diseased section of the colon or rectum is removed along with lymph nodes and part of the healthy colon. The two healthy ends are then reattached with the goal of returning the patient to the most normal bowel function possible.
Chemotherapy is the use of one or more of several drugs to kill cancer cells and is often used after surgery for treatment of colon cancer. It works by stopping the division and reproduction of cancer cells. When, where, and how chemotherapy is used will depend on the stage of the cancer, the health of the patient, and the doctor's preferences. Troubling side effects from chemotherapy such as nausea and hair loss can often be treated or counteracted.
After chemotherapy, most patients continue to undergo testing to ensure the effectiveness of treatment. Blood tests and X-rays may be used during follow up doctor visits to track the cancer and make any further decisions on treatment.