Clark County health commissioner: Get screened — and save your life

I saved my life today. Well, not all by myself. I had help from many people. Dr. Alan Gabbard, his staff, and the helpful staff at the Springfield Regional Outpatient Center made my thoughts into reality.

Let me start at the beginning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends: “Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer.” Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Most colon cancer begins as pre-cancerous polyps. If caught early, they can be removed prior to forming into cancer. Hmmmm? If you had a weird growth on your arm that would likely become cancerous, wouldn’t you have it removed before it got that far?

So I turned 50 on a Saturday. Not a big deal. But I know the recommendations on colorectal screening. How could I not with Dr. Yamini Teegala, medical director of the Rocking Horse Community Health Center, always reminding me that March is colorectal cancer screening month! So I scheduled an appointment to see Dr. Gabbard in March to set up my screening. We met a few weeks ago in his office and scheduled the procedure on the Monday following the big 5-0. He explained the procedure and, more importantly, the prep (my part of the whole thing) and it did not sound too bad. So I was committed. After a day of liquid diet and some “time around the house,” I was ready to get the procedure done the next morning so I could eat real food again. Not that I was starving — I could miss a few meals and survive.

So I went to the outpatient center and, after a few minutes, was off to do the paperwork. I had hardly returned to my seat when I was whisked away to begin the next part of the process. Sure that I looked silly in my gown and booties, I answered the nurse’s questions, met the anesthesiologist and then saw Dr. Gabbard as he popped his head in to say they were almost ready. There wasn’t much for me to do so I just lay there and relaxed. Soon they wheeled me into the procedure room. After looking around at all the equipment for a few minutes, I was waking up and it was done.

They soon explained that they found two polyps of differing types. They even gave me pretty color pictures. I still have them if you are curious. The one type of polyp was considered slow-growing and could possibly develop into something bad over a 10-year period or longer. The second flatter polyp was the kind that can turn into cancer in a shorter period of time and is more likely to develop into cancer than the traditional stalk-like polyp. The doctor removed both polyps during the procedure and they were tested at the lab to see if they had already turned cancerous. Fortunately, they had not. So by being screened and having the polyps removed before they became cancerous, my decisions saved my life. So would you like to be a hero and save your own life too? Call and schedule your appointment now!

Charles Patterson is Clark County Health Commissioner.

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