Rob Fraser is an active and fit 78-year-old who has made it a lifetime habit to be conscientious about his health.
“I believe in maintenance — around the house, on my car and on myself,” says the retired marketing and accounting executive.
In keeping with that philosophy, he had a colonoscopy in 2010 and wasn’t due for another one until 2020.
But last March, he found out that the colorectal screening kits that the Via Christi Cancer and Risk Assessment program was distributing at no cost — and will be again this March — to anyone 50 and older at Dillons store pharmacies statewide.
“The price was right as in F-R-E-E,” says Rob. “So I just went ahead and picked one up.”
He followed the instructions provided for collecting a stool sample and then sent it off to the lab in the self-addressed envelope provided as part of the kit.
Soon after, a Via Christi nurse navigator called him with his results, which showed a trace of blood in his specimen. He called his family physician, who ran another test to confirm the results. It, too, showed a trace of blood so he was scheduled for an off-cycle colonoscopy, which led to the discovery of a single rectal polyp.
Rob had surgery to have the polyp, which turned out to be cancerous, removed. He then followed his doctor’s recommendation and underwent 28 days of chemotherapy and radiation therapy sessions to help prevent the disease’s return.
And while none of it was the news he was hoping for when he picked up the screening kit that day, Rob couldn’t be more thankful.
“If I’d waited until 2020, chances are I’d have had full-blown rectal cancer,” says Rob, pictured with Via Christi radiation oncologist David Bryant, MD.
Early detection saves lives
Colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer death for men and women combined.
Regular screening often can prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer — a process that can take as many as 10 to 15 years. It also helps to find colorectal cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage.
According to the American Cancer Society, which recommends that anyone 50 or older get tested, the five-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent when colorectal cancer is found before it has spread. But only about four out of 10 colorectal cancers are found at this early stage. When cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.
Symptoms can include rectal bleeding or blood in stool, changes in bowel habits and changes in bowel appearance; anyone experiencing any of these should see their doctor.
For more information, call 316-268-5890 or go to viachristi.org/colon-cancer.