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April's Hero of the Month: Fight Colorectal Cancer Founder Nancy Roach

Exact Sciences: Thank you again for participating in our Hero of the Month column. Could you please start off by explaining your personal connection with colon cancer?

Nancy Roach: My first connection was when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 2 rectal cancer in 1996. Because of that, I started meeting other people affected by colorectal cancer – now I have more personal connections than I can begin to count! And too many of them have passed away, which is why I keep going. I have a responsibility to represent the people who aren’t here anymore.

Exact Sciences: In your opinion, why is it important for people to be educated about the disease and the prevention methods?

Nancy Roach: If you know your personal risk factors and your family history, are screened appropriately, and understand the symptoms, chances are you will not be diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer – although sometimes weird situations pop up, like a 26 year-old with no family history. I have met a lot of people who said, “I didn’t know I should be screened,” or, “I was tired for a couple of years and didn’t realize that I was anemic.” Our website has a great overview that includes information on things you can do to reduce your personal risk factors.

Exact Sciences: FCC does a lot of work to help raise awareness of this disease. Can you share with us one or two current initiatives that you are most excited about?

Nancy Roach: I’ll give you three, but I’ll be brief. Top on the list is our “Million Strong” campaign, which asks people to take the pledge to learn about screening and get screened – or get someone else to get screened. Another is our annual Congressional training, “Call-on Congress,” where our awesome grassroots advocates learn how to advocate for legislative change and also how to take the message home. And finally, we’re actively involved with efforts to streamline the clinical trial process across all cancers and all diseases – critically important in order to get better treatments faster.

Exact Sciences: Where do you see research/treatments of this disease in five years? What do you hope will happen/change?

Nancy Roach: My dream has always been a $5 non-invasive accurate screening test and personalized treatment that will cure all stages of colorectal cancer. We’re not there yet, but I see progress in screening and treatment. There are several innovative screening technologies popping up, and I’m on a bunch of committees that are designing studies to identify personalized treatments. So in the next five years, I’d like to see the innovative screening technologies tested in large trials so that we can figure out the best way to use them to save lives. I’d also like to see companies and academic research centers collaborating to move promising treatments through the clinical trial process as quickly and safely as possible.

Exact Sciences: Lastly, what is one thing that you would like people to take away from your story?

Nancy Roach: Everyone can make a difference – you can make a difference for yourself, for your personal circle of friends and family, and for society. Just figure out what you care about and go for it.

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