One Woman's Story Attests to Importance of Colonoscopy

Brady, 52, is a product manager at a software company. She said that no matter how unpleasant colonoscopy preparation may seem, the procedure is a better option than other screening alternatives.

Brady said that many people get embarrassed about how the colonoscopy procedure is performed or feel that cleaning out the bowels with the unpleasant tasting colonoscopy laxatives is simply not worth it. She feels that people get the wrong idea about how uncomfortable the bowel preparation is, which deters them from even thinking of getting a colonoscopy procedure. What people should acknowledge is that colonoscopy may save their lives. Brady said that, ultimately, colon cancer treatment and dealing with other complications that result from colon disease is much worse than a life-saving colonoscopy could ever be.

Colorectal cancer is the second-most deadly cancer here in America. However, the number of colon cancer survivors is increasing each year, and specialists say that improvement is a result of patients getting their precancerous polyps removed when cancer is diagnosed early during colonoscopy.

Brady noticed two years ago symptoms of rectal bleeding. The condition lasted for two months; she had initially believed it to be a result of hemorrhoids. A look at Brady’s family medical history will reveal that she belongs to the high-risk group for colon cancer because her family had experienced deaths caused by this deadly disease. Aware that she was at risk, Brady then had herself examined by a colonoscopy doctor called a gastroenterologist. The colonoscopy doctor scheduled a colon cancer screening for her right away.

During a colonoscopy, a long and flexible endoscopy tube called a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and guided along the bowels. A monitor in the examination room allows the colonoscopy doctor to see if there are polyps anywhere inside the patient’s large intestine. If a polyp is found, tissue samples can be tested for malignancy. Cancerous polyps can be removed right then and there, which the colonoscopy patient is sedated and feels no pain. Usually there is no need to undergo the colonoscopy procedure twice, even if colon cancer is detected.

A recent study spanning 20 years was published by the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded that overall colonoscopies had reduced colon cancer deaths in the United States by 53%. Brady was one of these patients whose lives were saved by colonoscopy. She was diagnosed with second stage cancer in her rectum. The cancer had penetrated the muscle tissue in the rectum, but not the actual rectum wall. Despite having had a colonoscopy 3 years prior (one that apparently missed the growth), exercising regularly and eating well, Brady had developed full blown Stage 2 cancer.

Experts from the National Cancer Institute estimate that there will be more than 143,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in America this year, and of those, approximately 51,000 will be fatal. What is good to know is that colon cancer can be prevented when it is detected at an early stage. Awareness through education about why colonoscopy is the best colon cancer screening method plays a crucial role in the prevention of this killer disease in the future.

Brady had to undergo chemotherapy after she was diagnosed. It made her weak. She said to ABC reporters that the radiation treatment was, literally, a “pain in the butt”. She said she would lie face down on the exam table with a full bladder, 5 days per week during treatment, while doctors used radiation to remove or kill the cancer cells in her rectum. After a month of radiation treatment for the colorectal cancer, she had endured so much pain that she lost 15 pounds. Most of the weight was lost because she’d have uncontrollable bowel movements every time she ate food.

Brady also had to undergo surgery to take out any cancer cells left after chemotherapy. She had an ileostomy, which is a procedure that makes an opening in the small intestine through which waste can exit the body and be stored in an external bag attached to the body. This procedure is necessary because the natural colon needs to heal after surgery and cannot support natural bowel movements. Brady’s body collected waste using this method for a total of 6 months. As a preventive measure, she underwent chemo again with Oxaliplatin drugs later on. This type of chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells that may have strayed away from their original location. But the Oxaliplatin came with serious side effects, including peripheral neuropathy, which Brady was diagnosed with after the second round treatment. Brady found herself with numbed limbs; it was hard to walk. She is now resorting to warm-water workouts, massage, yoga and some hyperbaric oxygen therapy intended to speed up her recovery, but her life is nothing like it used to be.

To get screened for colorectal cancer now, contact a colonoscopy doctor listed in the medical directory that can evaluate and treat you.