Patient's attention to symptoms detected stage 3 colon cancer
Mona Rieck believes in routine screenings for cancer. She gets her mammogram every year and follows the guidelines for colon cancer. She received her first screening colonoscopy at age 50 and another at 60, both of which were clear. With no family history, she was told to come back at 70. But at 68, she noticed some blood in her stool and did not hesitate to find out the reason.
“It was just a little blood, but I was worried about it,” she recalls. “My doctor told me I needed a colonoscopy, the gold standard for diagnosis. I had it done, and before I even went home, the gastroenterologist told me he was sure I had malignant colon cancer.”
Sure enough, a biopsy confirmed Mona had a stage 3 tumor. She was mystified that it advanced so far before she noticed the symptoms, but happy that she took decisive action, and she’s determined to beat it.
“I could have ignored the blood for another six months,” Mona says, “but if I did, I’d be in a lot more trouble.” Mona had radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the cancer prior to having surgery to remove it.
In October 2023, John Sayles, MD, of Sentara Surgery Specialists sat down at the console of a daVinci robotic surgery system at Sentara Leigh Hospital to perform what’s called, in clinical terms, a ‘robot-assisted laparoscopic lower anterior resection with diverting ileostomy.’ In common language, it’s colon cancer surgery.
Dr. Sayles sat ten feet from his patient, manipulating four precision tools inserted into Mona’s body through one-inch incisions, guided by a high-resolution camera. The daVinci system affords patients quicker recovery with less pain than a traditional open incision.
Dr. Sayles removed 12 inches of Mona’s large intestine. She’ll wear an ileostomy bag to capture her waste for about 12 weeks until she heals, and Dr. Sayles reattaches her colon so she can eliminate normally. Even with quicker, less painful recovery with the daVinci system, it’s still a long road, but Mona has no regrets. She’s confident she’ll be alive a lot longer than if she’d waited.
“Getting screened at the right time is important, but paying attention to symptoms is another,” Mona asserts. “If you see blood where it shouldn’t be, don’t wait. You need to get it checked right away.” She’s glad she did.