Avera Medical Minute: Why a Colonoscopy can be lifesaving

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 10:20 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - March is colon cancer awareness month. Making it even more important to schedule the potentially lifesaving procedure of a colonoscopy. Currently, it’s recommended to schedule a screening starting at age 45.

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers, but also one of the most treatable if detected early.

“Most colon cancers when detected at an early stage have a pretty good chance of being cured and so we want to detect those at an as early stage as possible,” said Dr. Benjamin Solomon with Avera Hematology and Oncology.

Timi Kiewel first became a mom back in 2018. While she was supposed to be enjoying time with her new baby, a few months after giving birth, she started having symptoms that concerned her.

“I was having, like, copious amounts of blood when I would go to the bathroom. I had just had a baby, so I knew it wasn’t hemorrhoids,” said Kiewel. “I had been Googling my symptoms the whole time, and everything that came up was colon cancer, colon cancer, and I was like, ‘no, there’s no way. I’m only 31. There’s no way I have cancer.’”

She eventually went to see her primary doctor, who then scheduled her for a colonoscopy a couple of days later.

“She had a fairly sizeable, a partially obstructing sigmoid colon tumor growth involving the sigmoid colon, which is in the left side of the colon,” said Christopher Hurley.

“I remember the look on Dr. Hurley’s face when I was coming out of the anesthesia, and he was explaining that they had found that large tumor that my husband and I knew it wasn’t good. My husband was there with me. They told us they found a tumor that I needed to get a CAT scan,” said Kiewel.

“So usually a colon cancer is diagnosed by a colonoscopy and the endoscopist takes a biopsy during the colonoscopy, and then the pathologist determines that does in fact or is in fact, compatible with the colon cancer, so that’s what happened for her, and then patients undergo some staging evaluation, which in the case of colon cancer includes a CAT scan,” said Benjamin Solomon. “So that looking clean for her, she went to surgery to have the colon cancer removed.”

Kiewel had about 12 inches of her colon removed.

“After a period of recovery, which usually, you know, is about 4 to 8, sometimes up to 12 weeks, depending on if there are any kind of delayed healing issues, then a patient can start chemotherapy,” Solomon said.

“I came in for 12 rounds of chemo and took place over the course of six months and I did 12 rounds and it was awful,” Kiewel said.

While that was tough, she’s thankful for the care she received from the team at Avera.

“Now I just got to graduate to scans every one year. I think it was on the 27th of February was my four-year anniversary of ringing the bell,” Kiewel said.

Kiewel’s case is uncommon due to her age. It’s recommended to schedule a screening starting at age 45.

“31 is a very young age for colon cancer. Unfortunately, I’ve seen colon cancer in patients in their twenties, that’s very, very unusual, but we are seeing, and that’s one of the reasons the age for screening decreased from age 50 to age 45 is because there’s increasing incidence of colon cancer being diagnosed in younger individuals,” said Hurley.

Now Kiewel hopes that her story will encourage others will take the time to schedule their screening.

“Colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if it’s caught early and to catch it early, all you have to do is go get that colonoscopy,” said Kiewel.=

Kiewel says she has no family history of colon cancer.

For more information about scheduling a colonoscopy and some signs and symptoms of colon cancer, go to Avera.org/MedicalMinute.