Colonoscopy: "Mine Saved My Life"
By her nature, Susan Jackson isn't a procrastinator. She juggles a retirement that includes a lot of activity in her community and part-time instructor with Ivy Tech Community College in Franklin, Indiana. But there was one thing she had been putting off and was long overdue – getting a colorectal cancer screening.
"It had been 12 years since my last colonoscopy, and I knew in the back of my mind that it had to be done," said the 69-year-old Nineveh, Indiana, resident. "Finally, I realized I just had to get it done."
Shortly before Christmas 2017, she scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. The lab results from a polyp indicated a suspect growth. Susan was referred to colorectal surgeon Frederick Lane, MD, a physician at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Colon & Rectal Center in Indianapolis.
Further testing, which included imaging, revealed an early stage cancer. With that diagnosis, and that of unrelated conditions in her gall bladder, Dr. Lane scheduled Jackson for surgery after the start of 2018. She had about 12 inches of her colon removed, and she was discharged within a few days.
"Fortunately, the cancer had not spread, and I didn’t need chemotherapy – something that really scared me," Jackson says. "Essentially, I was cured."
Getting to that promising prognosis all began with her decision to quit delaying scheduling a colonoscopy.
“My friends and others had been continually reminding me to get it done when it’s time,” she said. ““I’m certainly a cheerleader for colonoscopy screenings these days and I believe mine saved my life.”
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. The disease affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older. But this disease is highly preventable by getting screened beginning at age 50.
“Colon cancer screening with colonoscopy is a potentially lifesaving procedure that should be performed on any person age 50 or older, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms or problems,” said Karen Norris, RN, colorectal cancer nurse navigator at Franciscan Health Cancer Center. “This should be done at a younger age if there is a significant family history of colon polyps or cancer in the family especially first degree relatives.”
The use of conscious sedation ensures minimal to no discomfort at all during the procedure. A gastroenterologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating problems of the digestive system, or a specially trained colorectal surgeon should perform the tests.
Recent news reports have highlighted in-home stool testing kits that can be mailed to a lab for results. Many medical experts describe these as "second-line recommendation" to be used only for those who absolutely will not or cannot have a colonoscopy.
Norris added that screening in any fashion is important, but emphasized that colonoscopy is the preferred method of screening.
"Tens of thousands of lives could be saved each year if every American were tested as recommended," Norris said.
Franciscan Health offers colonoscopy services at more than a dozen locations throughout Indiana and South Suburban Chicago. Find a location and schedule a screeningin nearest you at FranciscanHealth.org/getacolonoscopy.