March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: A Journey Through Colorectal Cancer at Aspirus Health

In the summer of 2021, Dane Martin’s life changed forever. Dane, 53, woke up on August 1 with severe abdominal pain. After trying to fight through the pain, he decided to visit the Aspirus Wausau Hospital Emergency Room. Following blood work and a CT scan, he was admitted. Doctors performed a colonoscopy and found a mass in Dane’s colon. He was diagnosed with Stage Three Colon Cancer. Surgery was later performed to remove 10 inches of his colon.

“He had not gone in for a colonoscopy prior and if he had, it would have been caught immediately,” said Dane’s wife, Tracy.

The Martins have since become vocal advocates on the importance of colonoscopies.

Colorectal cancer, also referred to as colon cancer, is the third most common cancer in the US (excluding skin cancers) and Dane is one of 151,030 diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer in the US every year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Colorectal cancers start as a small clump or growth of cells, called polyps, in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Most are harmless; however, over time some may develop into cancer. If cancer forms, it can grow outward and spread through some or all layers of the intestines.

The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, change of bowel habits or stool, and in some cases, rectal bleeding.

A polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. In Dane’s case, doctors told him that the tumor had likely been present for 7 to 15 years without his knowing. Like Dane, many people live their lives without knowing they have colorectal cancer and have little to no symptoms until it reaches a later stage.

It’s been eight months since Dane was diagnosed with colon cancer. After receiving six months of chemotherapy every two weeks at Aspirus Regional Cancer Center, Wausau, his prognosis is great and he is now cancer-free.

The Martins continue to encourage friends and family to follow guidelines on colon cancer screenings.

This becomes easier when seeing a primary care provider regularly. Katelyn Frankwick, a Physician Assistant at Aspirus Clinic – Marshfield, explains, “I highly recommend that my patients get a colonoscopy at least starting at age 50. However, the latest guidelines are recommending now starting at age 45 as we are seeing colorectal cancers in the younger population. If you have any family history of colon cancer or even pre-cancerous polyps you need to address this with your primary care provider as your age of screening can change.”

It’s important that colorectal cancer is caught as soon as possible. Regular cancer screening is one of the most powerful tools for preventing colorectal cancer.

The Martins remain grateful that their cancer journey has a happy ending. “The staff at Aspirus Cancer Center were amazing – so caring and they calmed our fears for what we were about to face. They have become family! We were blessed for sure,” says Dane and Tracy.

To learn more about your risk of colorectal cancer, see your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, visit