SEATTLE — Martha Jackle-Lagervall was 54 when she got around to her first Cologuard screening — a fecal test to detect colorectal cancer. That positive test led to her first colonoscopy in January 2022, when the doctors found a 1-inch cancerous tumor. One year after a successful surgery to remove part of her colon and some lymph nodes, Jackle-Lagervall wants people to know it can happen to anybody.
“It’s hard to talk about it. No one wants to talk about poop,” she said, laughing. “But if I can take that stigma out of it, I’m going for it.”
Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the United States. As such, March is National Colorectal Cancer month, designed to call attention to the disease and urge most people to get checked by age 45, some even sooner.
Dr. Ulrik Wallin, a colorectal surgeon with Optum’s The Polyclinic, couldn’t agree more.
“My main message is to get screened with a colonoscopy,” he said.
Other less-invasive procedures, like fecal testing, can detect blood and cancer. But only a colonoscopy can find polyps, before they become cancerous.
“There are so many other cancers that we don’t know how to detect early,” Wallin said. “But we know we can detect colorectal cancer early, and we know how we can prevent it. We have such better outcomes with early diagnosis.”
Wallin speaks from personal experience. He had no risk factors for colorectal cancer, but had a routine colonoscopy in his mid-40s. His doctor found and removed eight large polyps. “It’s not as bad as people think,” he said. The worst part is the day before the test, with the bowel preparation, which generally requires people to take a day off work.
Jackle-Lagervall agreed with Dr. Wallin, her surgeon. Because of her “preaching” to her friends and family, several told her they finally scheduled a first colonoscopy, and they had precancerous polyps removed.
She’s feeling pretty good physically these days, although it took a while. But she said she’s still recovering mentally with the aftermath of cancer and the protocols to catch any future cancer early.
“When there is something that you can do for early protection, to try to prevent things like this, why wouldn’t you do it?” she asked.
See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about risk factors, symptoms and recommenced colorectal cancer screenings: www.cdc.gov/cancer/
Joy Borkholder is the health and wellness reporter for The Daily Herald. Her work is supported by the Health Reporting Initiative, which is sponsored in part by Premera Blue Cross. The Daily Herald maintains editorial control over content produced through this initiative.
Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.
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