Anything But Routine
Routine Exam Catches Early Colon Cancer in Chester Man
John Teeter sees himself as one lucky guy. As a child in the 1950s, he contracted polio. After successful treatment for symptoms of the viral illness, he has lived his life with no physical effects.
In December 2006, he planned to ask his internal medicine physician about a referral for his first screening colonoscopy. After all, he reasoned, he was 53 and, even though he wasn’t having any problems, the right age for the test.
That routine checkup turned out to be anything but routine for Mr. Teeter. A rectal examination indicated presence of blood, and a follow up diagnostic colonoscopy at Digestive Disorders Associates indicated the possibility of cancer. Surgery confirmed it.
“I am very fortunate,” said the Chester resident. “I had no symptoms. I felt great.”
He underwent a laparoscopic colon resection by surgical oncologist Glen Gibson, M.D. A tiny spot of cancer cells was found in one of the lymph nodes next to the colon. “In this situation, the colon cancer cells had shown the ability to spread to a lymph node, and that made me concerned that other microscopic cells could have gone to other parts of his body,” said Dr. Gibson. “I wanted John to see a medical oncologist to talk more about whether chemotherapy could reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.”
Medical oncologist Jay Rhee, M.D., of Annapolis Oncology Center, recommended that Mr. Teeter have chemotherapy.
“Wait-and-see wasn’t going to work for me,” said Mr. Teeter, who is deputy chief information officer for a federal agency. “I said to myself: ‘How do I fix this for good?’ If you are empowered to eliminate the bad thing from happening, why wouldn’t you do that?”
Mr. Teeter said his proactive approach to his illness was appreciated by the nurses and caregivers at AAMC. “When I came out of surgery, I had wonderful nurses who told me what I needed to do to get myself healed and out of the hospital. By following what they told me, I was able to go home after three days and spend the next couple of weeks at home resting and letting the surgical wounds heal.”
Nicknamed “The Walker” by the nurses and the care team, Mr. Teeter traversed the halls of the 5th floor, dragging his IV pole with him, eschewing narcotics and doing what was necessary to wake up his lower track. “I had surgery on Friday and was home working on Monday.”
Now more than two years out of surgery and chemotherapy, Mr. Teeter encourages individuals to talk to their doctors about when to have a colonoscopy. “Everyone in my office felt if it could happen to me, it could happen to them,” Mr. Teeter said. “And each one had a talk with his or her doctor. Those due for a colonoscopy got one.”
A Diagnostic Colonoscopy Can See What You May Not Feel
“Colonoscopy remains THE gold standard for the detection of cancerous and precancerous tumors of the colon,” said John Newman, M.D., of Anne Arundel Gastroenterology Associates. “It is believed that increased colon cancer screening has resulted in decreased numbers of colon cancers and colon cancer-related deaths in the United States. If colon cancer is found early, it is generally curable. If a precancerous polyp is removed at the time of colonoscopy, the development of cancer from that polyp site is thwarted.”
Michael Epstein, M.D., of Digestive Disorders Associates, says “It is important to start screening at age 50. More than 97 percent of patients have no risk factors for colon cancer. The most common symptom of colon cancer? None.”
Talk to your physician about when to have a colonoscopy. Call askAAMC, 443-481-4000, for a referral to a primary care physician or a gastroenterologist. To learn about eating healthy to protect your gastrointestinal tract, schedule a consultation with a registered dietitian, 443-481-5360.
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