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According to theLos Angeles Times Vanessa Smith's prominent scar just below her belly button is both a badge of honor and a symbol of her so-far successful recovery from colon cancer.

The 36-year-old Aurora resident has joined 12 other cancer survivors in baring their respective surgical souvenirs in a 2011 calendar designed to raise awareness of the disease and encourage early testing.

" Colon cancer is not a cancer people talk about," said Smith, an account manager by trade and mother of a 12-year-old son. "Maybe they are ashamed of saying they have it — I certainly was embarrassed at first — but it doesn't matter. Your life matters."

Smith will be the featured April subject in a 2011 "Colonder" produced by The Colon Club, a New York-based non-profit that seeks to educate people about colorectal cancer, the second-leading cancer in the United States. The group is perhaps best known for creating the Colossal Colon (CoCo), a 40-foot-long, four-foot-tall model of a human colon that can be toured at shopping malls, hospitals and special events.

Just two years ago, cancer and colons and calendars were the furthest thing from Smith's mind. She was in good health, with no sign anything was amiss until a night in August 2008.

As she prepared for bed, Smith said she went to the bathroom and blood started inexplicably flowing out of her rectum.

Smith was terrified, called her mother at 11 p.m. and described what had happened. Her mother, a nurse, suggested it could be a hemorrhoid or abrasion but urged her daughter to visit her personal physician as soon as possible.

The next day, Smith's doctor found no immediate reason for the bleeding and more detailed examination by a specialist was recommended. A colonoscopy performed two months later revealed the cause: Smith had Stage 3C colon cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, Stage 3C cancer is extremely serious, where the cancer has spread to the outermost layer of the colon but has not yet reached nearby organs.

Regular health screenings are important at every stage of adulthood. From the plastic surgery perspective,preventative measures are important also. Dr. O'Toole explains to his patients that beginning early with anti-aging preventative measures helps patients maintain their best look at every age. Beginning preferably in the mid-20s injectables such as Juvederm and Botox help to maintain a youthful look. In the mid-30s a modified, or mini- facelift can easily take 10 years off of the appearance of most patients. In the late 40s to mid-50s a full facelift including the neck area as well as a blepharoplasty will once again take 10 years off of the appearance of most patients. From the age of 60 and beyond patients vary in terms of any additional surgery that they will desire. Most patients will elect to use injectables alone since typically they will still look 10 years younger than their stated age. Of course, these are general guidelines and each patient is different; however, the key is prevention vs. correction.
 

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