As a health educator working for a cancer program, I knew all too well the guidelines for when one should get screened for various cancers. So, it was a “no-brainer” when I went to see my physician and let him know that I was having vague gastrointestinal issues and reminded him that my mother had colon cancer about 25 years ago. I told him I wanted a colonoscopy, even though it had been 5 years since my initial one at age 50-the year one should get the baseline; but it’s recommended that one get one ever 5 years if there is a family history.
Just before my gastroenterologist sedated me, I told him my concerns. When I awoke from the procedure he said I could have one of three types of tumors on my small intestine.
Before I knew it I was getting calls to schedule more diagnostic tests and surgeon visits. Another colonoscopy, one octreoscan, one CT scan and two surgeon visits later, I was on the operating table on February 22, 2011.
Part of my small intestine and large intestine, my appendix, a one centimeter carcinoid tumor and 22 lymph nodes, 2 of which were cancerous, were removed from my body.
While recovering at home for one month, a co-worker, who was also a cancer survivor, started a sign-up sheet at the office for people to come by my house daily for the next several weeks to drop off food and visit me, and/or walk my dog. The selflessness of my co-workers and friends who visited me in the hospital and at home helped both my spirit and recovery.
I believe that advocating for my health and communicating my concerns and needs to my doctor were just as important to maintain my health. If it weren’t for the great team of the UC Davis doctors, including my primary care physician, my gastroenterologist who probed deeper than usual and found the lesion on the small intestine, and my surgeon, I wouldn’t be telling this story.
I am here today to tell you to talk to your doctor about when you should get screened for colon cancer and which method is best for you. In my case, the colonoscopy saved my life.