On a busy holiday weekend last May, the cards were lined up just right for Jackie Welsh. When many were heading out for four days of fun, Welsh was in urgent need of colon cancer surgery. Four Agnesian HealthCare physicians worked in tandem to make it happen for Welsh.
In spite of the challenges a busy holiday weekend can present, her primary care family physician, Russell Fredrickson, MD, got her in quickly for a colonoscopy performed by Nathan Slinde, MD, gastroenterologist, who then successfully scheduled her for surgery the next day with General Surgeon Toni Stanley, MD. After surgery, Dr. Stanley referred Welsh to Joel Lundberg, MD - a medical oncologist at the Agnesian Cancer Center - who set Welsh up with a chemotherapy treatment plan.
“Because Jackie had been showing significant signs of obstruction, I didn’t want to wait to intervene,” Dr. Stanley says. Cancer was also discovered in the lymph nodes, which resulted in a stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis - one that led to five months of chemotherapy orchestrated by Dr. Lundberg. In preparation for Welsh to receive chemotherapy directly into her body, Dr. Stanley had already surgically placed a “port” in her chest. The continuous pump method delivered the right amount of cancer-killing drugs to Welsh, even when at home.
“Jackie tolerated chemotherapy well,” Dr. Lundberg says, noting that surveillance of her progress after treatment is being carried out according to national guidelines, which includes monitoring of a specific blood test, annual CT scans for three years, physical exams and periodic colonoscopies. “Her prognosis is excellent. Chemotherapy lowers the risk of recurrence by 50 percent.”
Screenings are lifesavers.
National guidelines recommend a routine colonoscopy for everyone starting at age 50 to rule out colon or rectal cancer.
“If there is a family history of colon cancer, the exam should start at age 40 - or 10 years prior to the age the relative was when diagnosed with colon cancer - whichever is earlier,” says Nathan Slinde, MD, a gastroenterologist.
“Screening at these ages is important because that’s when most patients begin to form polyps (which can become cancerous),” Dr. Slinde says, noting Welsh’s colon cancer was caused by a polyp that had been silently growing inside her colon for more than 10 years.