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Colon cancer survivor Greg Grobmyer, of Signal Mountain, speaks about his experience with the disease at the 2018 Greater Chattanooga Rump Run 5K and Fun Walk for Colon Cancer Awareness at Enterprise South Nature Park. / Photo contributed by Greg Grobmyer

An issue with acid reflux led Greg Grobmyer, then 36, to visit his doctor in 2009. A blood test revealed that he was anemic, and the doctor suspected Grobmyer had a bleeding ulcer in his esophagus.

When they didn't find anything, the doctor recommended a colonoscopy.

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The 2018 Greater Chattanooga Rump Run 5K and Fun Walk for Colon Cancer Awareness drew 642 participants. This year's event is set for Saturday, March 9 at Enterprise South Nature Park. / Photo contributed by Greg Grobmyer

With no history of cancer in his family, a colon cancer diagnosis was the last thing Grobmyer expected.

"It was not on my radar at all," said Grobmyer, then a practicing dentist in Jackson, Tennessee.

During the colonoscopy, doctors found a cancerous growth that needed to be removed — surgery was performed that day to remove the entire right side of his colon. Grobmyer then went through 12 rounds of chemotherapy, which left his hands and feet numb and rendered him unable to practice dentistry.

Two years ago, Grobmyer and his family moved to Signal Mountain, where he'll celebrate a decade of living cancer-free this year. To help raise awareness about the disease and the importance of screening, he became involved with the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation and its annual fundraiser, the Greater Chattanooga Rump Run 5K and Fun Walk for Colon Cancer Awareness.

"It doesn't get nearly as much attention as breast cancer and other forms of cancer do, but it's still a really common cancer," Grobmyer said of colon cancer, which is most common in people over 50, the age at which the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends people begin screenings.

In the United States, roughly 39 people per 100,000 are diagnosed with colon cancer annually, and about 40 per 100,000 are diagnosed in Tennessee. In Hamilton County, approximately 37 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed each year.

The incidence is slightly higher among African-Americans, at roughly 45 per 100,000 nationwide, 47 per 100,000 in Tennessee and 44 per 100,000 in Hamilton County, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The recommendations for the age to begin screenings for African-Americans — who tend to contract the disease at a younger age — vary, with the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force recommending African-Americans begin screenings at age 45 and the general population begin screenings at 50.

The American Cancer Society recommends all people begin screenings at 45, said Dr. Marshall Horton, vice president of the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation and retired gastroenterologist.

"Our primary message is that colonoscopy saves lives," Horton said, adding that only 65 percent of Tennesseans are up-to-date on their screenings.

Intended to raise awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screenings and to show support for those affected by the disease, the seventh annual Rump Run is set for Saturday, March 9 at Enterprise South Nature Park.

Participants may register online at rumprun.com through March 7 at midnight, or on race day at the race site beginning at 7:30 a.m. A survivor recognition ceremony will take place at 8:50 a.m. The timed 5k will begin at 9 a.m. and the walk at 9:05, followed by the awards ceremony.

Preregistration costs $30 online. Day-of registration fee is $40. The cost for children 10 and younger is $10.

All money raised through the race stays local, going toward billboard campaigns, participation in health fairs and community education events, and colonoscopies for the indigent and uninsured, said Horton.

If interested in volunteering at the event, call 757-0730 or visit rumprun.com.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com

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