Linda Sands is a self-described “health nut” who watches her diet carefully and leads an active lifestyle in the northwest suburbs.
But after undergoing a routine physical and blood tests in summer 2014, Linda learned that she was anemic. She had an insufficient amount of iron in her blood, and her physician was unsure of the cause.
“The doctors were trying to determine why I had blood issues,” Linda recalls. “It was a mystery why my iron count was so low.”
To understand why Linda had iron deficiency anemia, her doctor scheduled a colonoscopy at Northwest Community Healthcare. This screening would enable the doctor to view the inner lining of Linda’s large intestine through a small video camera attached to a thin, flexible tube inserted into the colon.
“I knew it was not going to be a fun test, but it was the smart thing to do,” Linda says. “A colonoscopy can find early signs of cancer in the colon and is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer.”
During the colonoscopy, Linda’s doctors found a large polyp, or mass of tissue, in her large intestine. The polyp was biopsied and determined to be benign, but Linda needed to schedule a second colonoscopy to remove the polyp and prevent cancer.
“I had no symptoms at all,” Linda says. “It was very unexpected to have something that large in my intestine with no symptoms. If I had not had a colonoscopy, I would have eventually been diagnosed with colon cancer.”
The American Cancer Society estimates more than 132,000 Americans will have colorectal cancer diagnosed in 2015, and more than 49,000 people will die from it. The disease is particularly slow growing, developing over 10 to 15 years, so for those at average risk it is critical to begin having screening exams at age 50 and follow-up screenings as your doctor recommends.
Removing the Threat
For her second colonoscopy, Linda turned to Willis Parsons, M.D., medical director of the NCH Gastroenterology Center. Dr. Parsons immediately scheduled the procedure at NCH.
With the large polyp removed successfully, Linda is on the road to recovery and slowly getting back to her active lifestyle.
She knows now the importance of regular colonoscopies, especially because she had experienced no symptoms. She will have an exam every few years as a precaution.
“Because of my experience, I encourage family and friends to visit their doctor and determine when they should begin having this important test,” Linda says. “People are afraid of the unknown when it comes to the test, but I can say truthfully that a colonoscopy is much easier than cancer treatment.”