Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. The key to prevention and survival lies in one simple test — a colonoscopy.
As colorectal surgeon Michael Jobst, MD, affirms, this truly is a lifesaving procedure.
“When patients are already experiencing symptoms such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or weight loss, the cancer is often diagnosed at later stages when prognosis is very poor,” he says. “Screening colonoscopies can prevent colorectal cancer through the removal of precancerous polyps, and they can detect colorectalcancers at an early stage, long before patients experience symptoms.”
By screening in this way, physicians hope to prevent or catch the disease at an early stage, when prognosis for a cure is much better.
Patients Judy and Erma Nord of Lincoln are living proof that early screening makes a difference.
“During the summer of 2015, I was so tired that I was barely making it through my day,” says Judy. “My sister urged me to go to the doctor. Tests showed that I was anemic, and my doctor recommended that I schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy.”
Judy’s colonoscopy showed a small lesion on her colon. She was referred to Dr. Jobst of Surgical Associates, who scheduled surgery for the following week.
Carrie Waltemath, an oncology nurse navigator at Bryan Health, was notified of Judy’s case and followed up immediately.
“With each new patient with cancer, I explain that I’m here to help them navigate
the cancer journey and answer questions,” she says. “With Judy, we focused on understanding her cancer staging, preparing for oncology visits and expectations for recovery.”
Judy underwent laparoscopic surgery with Dr. Jobst to remove an area in
the right side of her colon.
Given the circumstances, Judy’s family members were growing concerned about their own health, as well. Her mother, Erma, and sister, Joni, scheduled colonoscopies for themselves.
The move proved to be a smart one. While Joni’s colonoscopy showed no signs of cancer, Erma’s colonoscopy showed a cancerous tumor that needed surgical attention. The tumor was in the exact spot as Judy’s.
“While this case is quite interesting and ironic, Erma and Judy’s cancer was not hereditary. In fact, only 3 percent of colon cancers are genetically passed from parent to offspring,” explains Dr. Jobst. “However, as a general rule, any time there is a history of colon polyps or cancer in your family, it warrants preventive screening.”
Three weeks later, Erma underwent surgery at Bryan Health, where Dr. Jobst removed a growth the size of a golf ball, along with 10 inches of Erma’s colon. Carrie was there to guide Erma through her cancer treatment options, as well.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Erma. “If I would have waited, who knows how far the cancer would have spread.”
Now on the other side of the experience, the Nords continue to communicate with their oncology nurse navigator, talking about their road to recovery, progress and doctor appointments. They’re also self-proclaimed super fans of Dr. Jobst, thankful for the successful surgeries and for the educational and compassionate care they received during their cancer treatment.
Dr. Jobst says it’s an essential and rewarding part of his job.
“I especially enjoy being an educator at the first and subsequent office visits. I take great pride in communicating a game plan for the staging and treatment of their disease. I hope that my patients leave my office with much less fear and a much better understanding of colorectal cancer and their treatment.”
For both women, their cancer diagnoses have prompted an advocacy for others to get screened for colon cancer.
“There’s no good reason to postpone a colonoscopy,” says Erma. “If not for yourself, do it for your family. You’ll be thankful you did.”