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Health Team

Cancer Patient: Colonoscopies Are 'Imperative'

Posted October 11, 2007 5:09 p.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2007 9:59 p.m. EDT

— Someone in the United States dies from colorectal cancer every nine minutes. It kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Most of the deaths could be prevented with screening. There are a few options, but they're not all created equal.

Carol Kibler fought breast cancer 14 years ago. With aggressive treatment and the support of friends, she beat it.

“And breast cancer was a breeze compared to what I’m going through now,” she said.

In March, at age 60, Kibler said she noticed rectal bleeding. A colonoscopy revealed a tumor that was beginning to break through the wall of the colon, in danger of spreading.

“It pretty much blew me away,” she said.

Kibler said she had not been aware that at age 50, men and women should begin colorectal cancer screening. Dr. Martin Poleski, gastroenterologist at Duke University Medical Center, said a colonoscopy is the best way –  not only to find cancer, but also prevent it.

“It looks at the entire colon. It can remove any polyps that are there,” he said.

Polyps are small growths that could become cancerous.

The test has been proven to decrease the death rate from colon cancer by at least a third. Poleski said some people may choose to avoid a colonoscopy until an annual hemoccult test – testing for blood in a stool sample – reveals a problem, but the test can miss up to 50 percent of polyps and also show false positives.

“The doctor will say, ‘Well, you've got a little blood there.’ You'll have a colonoscopy again and they'll find nothing,” Poleski said.

Kibler had bowel resection surgery and is still in radiation and chemotherapy. If she could go back 10 years, she would choose nothing short of a colonoscopy.

“Had I known what I know now, I would have been there in a minute,” she said. “Getting a colonoscopy is imperative."

That's what she now preaches to all her friends.