A physician’s letter saves a life
Bob doesn’t have colon cancer. But lucky for him, his family physician at Geisinger reminded him he was due for his first colonoscopy. Bob is alive today because he followed his advice.
Benton, PA, native Bob Z. admits that he was never one to seek medical tests or screenings unless he had symptoms that concerned him. But when he received a letter from his doctor notifying him that at age 50, he was due for his first colonoscopy — a common exam to screen for colorectal cancers—he chose to set up the appointment.
“I lost a very good friend to colon cancer,” he says. “If he’d had a colonoscopy when he should have, I think he would be alive today.”
“Stroke of luck”
During the colonoscopy, Bob’s physician removed polyps. Specialists who examined these growths determined that they were not caused by colon cancer. Instead, physicians diagnosed a different disease, mantle cell lymphoma, a very rare cancer that spreads quickly throughout the body.
Bob Z's Story: Colonoscopy Screening
Bob Z. found out he had cancer through a routine colonoscopy recommended by his family physician. Bob is alive today because he followed his doctor's advice.
This type of cancer usually remains hidden, and undiagnosed, until after it has spread to other organs. Bob had no such symptoms; specialists at Geisinger had caught it early.
“It was a stroke of luck,” he says. “If my doctor had not sent me that letter, there’s no telling how long I’d have walked around with it and how far it would have spread.”
Quality of life
The days after diagnosis were a blur of follow-up tests and visits to Geisinger’s hematology and oncology physicians. Bob reports that he and his family have used Geisinger physicians for a dozen or more years, and they have always had great care. Still, he was unsure what he wanted to do about treatment.
“All of my experience with cancer has been bad,” he says. “My friend died of it, and other people I know have had a rough time. I didn’t want to go through a long process of treatment, to ruin my quality of life, and end up dying from it anyway.”
A growing confidence
He shared his concerns with his physician, who listened carefully and provided detailed explanations about the cancer and his recommended treatment.
“He was so knowledgeable,” Bob says. “He answered many questions I hadn’t even thought about. I walked out of there very confident that he could treat the cancer successfully. I was ready to do whatever he recommended.”
One of six
With Geisinger’s ongoing involvement in national research and clinical trials, Bob’s physician was able to offer him some of the most advanced chemotherapy drugs available. By joining one clinical trial, Bob became one of only six people in the nation to take exciting new medications, drugs that had already shown promise in treating mantle cell lymphoma.
“It’s only because Geisinger does this kind of research that I could participate in this study,” he says. “And that gave me an even better chance of beating this cancer.”
Bob received chemotherapy treatments during several four-day hospital stays over a period of about six months. Recalling cancer treatment for friends and relatives, Bob had expected the drugs to cause nausea and sickness. But he did not experience those side effects, only a decrease in energy level.
“Over all, the experience was much different, much better, than I expected,” he says. “I couldn’t speak more highly of all the people at Geisinger who helped me. They do fantastic work.”
Clear of cancer
Today, two years after his diagnosis and treatment, all follow-up tests confirm 100 percent remission, Bob reports. He is still in the cancer drug study in hopes that the new treatment that saved him can become available to more people.
Bob calls colonoscopies “a very small inconvenience” compared to the problems of not catching cancer early.
"A lot of people think a colonoscopy is a big deal, but it really isn’t. And I speak from experience: I’ve had a bunch of them now,” he jokes. “The most important thing I can say is this: If a doctor recommends you to get one, do it.”