Early detection adds hope.
Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States-- but it's also one of the most curable. When detected early, colon cancer can be safely removed before spreading to surrounding organs. But unlike other cancers, you don't check your colon for lumps and you can't perform monthly self-exams. Instead, a routine colonoscopy is used to find non-cancerous polyps in the colon or rectum before they become a problem. The best prevention for this silent killer is early detection.
Take time to schedule a colonoscopy screening with your doctor or learn how to reduce your cancer risks. If you have questions or need to find a doctor, call 321.8HEALTH.
As former University of Florida football player turned banker Blair Culpepper prepared for his physical, he had no concerns. When his primary care physician recommended a colonoscopy, he still had no hesitations. Three years prior, he had undergone the procedure with clear results.
However, three days after the colonoscopy, Blair’s physician phoned with alarming news. You have a tumor in your colon – it is a problem. “I don’t feel bad. I am healthy. I exercise. I even walk all eighteen holes of golf!” Blair thought as he began asking his physician to outline the next steps.
I have colon cancer - the second leading cancer killer. With no family history or symptoms, he was stunned but decided not to let it get him down; he had to fight.
Advised to seek immediate attention, Blair began researching specialists. He chose MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando because of its collegial approach. The skill of the physicians of MD Anderson –Orlando coupled with the experience of the physicians at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando ensured Blair that he would receive the best treatment available.
Only a week after receiving the shocking colonoscopy results, colon-rectal surgeon Paul Williamson, MD, performed the surgery to remove the fast-growing tumor. “Dr. Williamson was particularly helpful. He referred me to other patients who had undergone the same treatment.” Dr. Williamson successfully removed the tumor, but pathology reports revealed the cancer could have spread into the wall of his colon or into his lymph nodes, so the chance of spreading existed.
“Four months ago, you would have had to receive your chemotherapy through an IV,” explained hematologist Omar Kayaleh, MD, pleased to offer an alternative. Blair instead took his chemotherapy in pill form three times a day. “He also gave me medicine to help with the side effects of chemotherapy. If I lost any hair, no one noticed,” says Blair with a smile as he rubbed his already balding scalp.
After rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, the collective team reviewed Blair’s case and determined an additional surgery would help prevent a reoccurrence. “Before surgery, they prepared me well and put my fears to rest. They could tell I wanted to overcome the cancer and helped me fight it. MD Anderson – Orlando provided cutting edge cancer care,” Blair said in appreciation.
Blair underwent further radical surgery to remove the cancer bearing organ and its lymph nodes. At his six-month follow-up, Blair’s test results came back clear. Typical treatment plans would have stopped here, however, Dr. Kayaleh and Dr. Williamson prefer to continue regular follow-ups for the first three years. Nearly a year after his treatment concluded, Blair underwent his second CT scan. “It was then they found a cancerous lymph node in my groin,” he explains. “I was devastated, but MD Anderson – Orlando helped me through it one more time.” “I didn’t let it get me down,” he says, pausing before adding, “The only thing that gets me down is when the Gators lose.”
Blair met with Dr. Williamson to discuss surgery. “You should give Dr. Kayaleh a hug,” he advised, noting how rare it was to have discovered the cancerous lymph node so quickly. After removing the cancerous lymph node, Blair began his second round of rigorous treatment. He underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation before being declared cancer-free. “They all hate cancer at MD Anderson – Orlando and are determined to wipe it out.”
"I am a cancer survivor,” says Blair. “And, I am telling everyone over fifty to have a colonoscopy.”