No, It Can’t be Me!
It was a typical late September day in 2011. The transition to fall with lower humidity and cooler temperatures had not quite arrived in Tupelo. I had followed the recommended screening protocol of colonoscopy at age 50 (American Cancer Society now recommends age 45). My colonoscopy was normal. I had no family history of colon cancer. After 36 years as a physician and 25 years as a gastroenterologist, one could say I am a specialist in preventing and managing colon cancer.
I was now 60 and due my next screening colonoscopy. It was completed and suddenly I was on the other side of the table. No longer was I the bearer of bad news, but now the recipient. My screening colonoscopy found that I had colon cancer.
My surgery went well and because the cancer was detected early, no chemotherapy was needed. Now this next statement is particularly important! I had been very diligent in follow-up to detect possible recurrence of my colon cancer. CEA blood tests and recommended CT scans of chest, abdomen and pelvis were followed per protocol. Then in June 2013, my follow-up testing revealed I was now Stage IV with metastatic colon cancer to my lungs. Chemotherapy, lung radiation and ablation of lung nodules were performed.
It is now 10 years since my colon cancer diagnosis. Without screening colonoscopy, I might not have been here for the birth of four of my seven grandchildren. It is my hope that sharing my story will motivate others to prevent colon cancer by getting screened. I encourage both physicians and health clinics in our state to review their procedures and policies to assure that each eligible person gets screened either by colonoscopy, or if they refuse colonoscopy, the more sensitive stool test called FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test).
Reducing deaths from colon cancer will require a statewide, county by county, community by community, medical clinic by medical clinic effort to be successful. I request that our elected Mississippi officials explore innovative options that will be more inclusive and accessible so that all residents of this state may easily access screening, with NO barriers. I ask physicians and hospitals to do the same. The importance of colon cancer screening is no longer in doubt. The evidence that we can dramatically reduce colon cancer deaths is clear.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Let us make a difference today and every day!
The importance of colon cancer screening is no longer in doubt. The evidence that we can dramatically reduce colon cancer deaths is clear.