Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Colonoscopy: Early Detection That Can Be Life-Altering


Submitted by Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center and Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities

Two women. Two mothers. Two families. Two cancer diagnoses. Two lives saved due to early detection. Carla and Linda both walked into Mississippi Valley Surgery Center and Endoscopy Center, located at 5041 Utica Ridge Road, Suite 200, in Davenport, Iowa, for routine screenings—expecting to walk away with the “all clear.” But what they received were two shocking cancer diagnoses. Their journeys of treatment were very different, but early detection helped save both their lives.

March marks National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s why these brave, local women are sharing their stories and encouraging everyone to get a colonoscopy.

Carla’s Story: Listening to Her Doctor
Carla, a 51-year-old Davenport resident and church choir director, was referred to Dr. Bettaiah Gowda for a screening colonoscopy after her primary caregiver couldn’t determine why her iron levels were so low. Dr. Gowda with Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities chooses to perform his outpatient procedures at Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center. 

A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure that allows the physician to examine the large intestine (colon) for changes and abnormalities, typically polyps or colon cancer. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and the patient is under sedation.

When Carla’s colonoscopy revealed a large, cancerous mass, she was shocked. Even months later, she can’t retell the story without tearing up.

“I really never thought there would be an issue,” Carla said. “It was the most devastating time of my life. When I heard that it was cancerous, I was shocked. I felt numb, and I just blanked out. I wasn’t receiving the information well.”

Carla, who described her state as an “emotional wreck,” continued feeling upset. After she reached out with questions, Dr. Gowda immediately called to reassure her.

“He told me everything was going to be ok, and this wave of peace came over me,” Carla said. “He was so compassionate and sincere. He has a compassion for people, knows his job, and is really good.”

For Dr. Gowda, reassuring patients is part of his job. With nearly 25 years of experience, Dr. Gowda has helped many patients facing unexpected results.

“As doctors, we’re here for patients,” said Dr. Gowda. “We know that some results can be scary, but that doesn’t mean patients should avoid a screening. The earlier it’s detected, the better the treatment can be. According to the CDC, more than 30 percent of adults ages 50-75 are not up to date with colorectal cancer screenings, which is why we emphasize its importance. Colon cancer is the most preventable type of cancer and early staged colon cancers are typically curable. The most common symptoms of colon cancer are “no symptoms,” hence the importance of getting screened.” 

Less than a month after her colonoscopy, Carla underwent a surgery to remove the mass, which thankfully had not spread to any other areas. She’s thankful she had the colonoscopy when she did, and she’s having her four children get tested.

“Early detection definitely saves lives,” Carla said. “It has changed my outlook to see how precious life can be. That was so unexpected.”

“You have every reason to find it early,” said Dr. Sreenivas Chintalapani (Chin), of Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities. “You don’t want to wait for it to show up because there is little that can be done at that point. It grows silently. The prevention potential is really great. As a whole, wouldn’t we be better off preventing cancer rather than treating it?”

Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center physicians recommend both men and women get routine screenings starting at the age of 50. Those with a family history of polyps or colon cancer may be advised to have colonoscopies sooner.

FAST FACTS of Colon Cancer

  • 1 in 20 will be diagnosed with colon cancer in their lifetime.
  • 60 percent of all colon cancer deaths could be prevented with regular screenings.
  • Cancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always reveal symptoms, especially not right away. You could be at risk and not know it—that’s why having a screening test is so important.
  • Over 90 percent of colon cancer appears in men and women ages 50+.
  • 1 in 3 adults ages 50 to 70 are not up to date with recommended colon cancer screenings.
  • There are currently more than 1 million colon cancer survivors in the U.S. thanks to early detection.
  • Screening colonoscopies are considered a preventative benefit with most insurance companies at no out of pocket cost to the patient.

Linda’s Story: Proactive Health for Her Children
For 73-year-old Linda, a Bettendorf resident who enjoys her job as a school bus driver, the decision to have a colonoscopy was all about reassuring her kids she was healthy and well.

“After losing my husband, I wanted to prove to my kids I was taking care of myself and I was healthy,” said Linda. “I felt completely fine—no pain at all and no complaints.”

Part of Linda’s health check-up was a colonoscopy with Dr. Chin at Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center. To her surprise, the test revealed colon cancer. And the cancer had already spread to her lungs.

“Initially, I thought, ‘Oh no,’” Linda said of hearing she had cancer. “But I told my kids I was going to fight it, and I did. You just have to keep positive, hit it head on, and hit it hard.”

Linda had the cancerous mass in her colon and the bottom of her right lung removed. She began going through cancer treatments including rounds of radiation and chemotherapy.

“A colonoscopy as a procedure is a team effort even though the physician is doing it,” said Dr. Chin. “The nursing around the procedure, the care that is involved around it—there is a science and expertise that is acquired over many years. And that knowledge base, expertise, and experience is unmatched at Mississippi Valley.”

Dr. Chin was also on-call when Linda had a bleeding ulcer. Throughout all the many trials Linda faced, she was determined to fight it and show her kids that she would “whip it.”

Recent tests proved promising for Linda, who continues to work and spend time with her family. She now advocates for people not to be hesitant when it comes to early and regular colonoscopies. 

“Get something done. Don’t ignore it. Don’t postpone it,” said Dr. Shashinath Chandrahasegowda (Shashi), of Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities. “No one should die from colon cancer in the modern world. Our goal is to eliminate colon cancer because it is preventable.”

To learn more about Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, go to www.mvhealth.net or visit the center’s Facebook page at facebook.com/MississippiValleySurgeryCenter.

To learn more about the conditions that the physicians at Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Quad Cities treat, visit the practice’s Facebook page at facebook.com/GICQC.

To learn more about National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, visit ccalliance.org.