Man fighting hereditary disease that will likely lead to colon cancer

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- According to recent studies, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. Doctors recommend getting a screening before the age of 50.

But one Florida family has learned that early detection may not reverse their chances of getting the deadly disease.

For over 20 years, David Pienta has spent three nights a week doing what he loves: officiating sports.

"It’s on the back of your mind. I want to leave a legacy, I want these kids to know they have a positive role model in their life," Pienta said.

But Pienta is doing it for a much bigger reason. At just 34 years old, he received news that shook his entire world.

"On the last day of vacation, on the way back from Vegas, I got the phone call," Pienta said.

The doctor revealed what Pienta was dreading: He has a rare hereditary disease called F.A.P.

"F.A.P. is seemingly a genetic defect that effects the colon in terms of this uncontrollable growth of polyps,” said Dr. Raymond Cottrell, a gastroenterologist who treats Pienta.

Dr. Cottrell sees Pienta every three years. Polyps line the inside of Pienta’s stomach. He's at a high risk of developing colon cancer eventually, and every time he gets scoped, Pienta hopes for the best.

"It’s always a guessing game. Every time I go in, I never know if he'll call me up and say, 'Hey, I’m sorry. This time around, we found cancer,'" Pienta said.

But colon cancer isn't the only problem Pienta is facing. Doctors have found osteomas on his jaw and pancreas, and the risk of other cancers for Pienta are increasing.

"Little bone-like growths and they happen in weird places in your body. They can be little to none, to hundreds. It's known to cause thyroid cancer. I have a 70 percent chance of thyroid cancer," Pienta said.

But doctors say Pienta is one of the lucky ones. Pienta says not every day is an easy one. But that's when he remembers his late aunt who he believes saved his life.

"You know it's going to be a rough day. Work's waiting on you when you get to the office. You look at that picture and say, she would kill to be here right now. She would do anything to be here right now. So get out of bed, suck it up, and move on," Pienta said.

So he moves with purpose and motivation.

"Let it change your life for the better. Make it motivate you to live every day to the fullest," Pienta said.

Pienta's wife, Rachel, works for the American Cancer Society. He says he's now making it his mission to encourage folks to get checked out. Although the recommended age for a screening is before age 50, doctors say if you have a family history of colon cancer, polyps can develop as early as the teenage years.

Read the original version of this article at wctv.tv.