Screened with Cologuard: Colorectal Cancer Survivor
“People might think ‘If I don’t know about it, I don’t have to deal with it.’ With colon cancer, it’s better to know about it so you can deal with it.’”
Before screening for colon cancer, Leanne had her own reasons for putting it off. I don’t have any family history, even though about 70% of people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease1. Or, I don’t have any symptoms, she’d tell herself. But when looking ahead at the New Year in 2019, Leanne committed to putting those reasons aside and asked her healthcare provider about noninvasive Cologuard during a routine physical. She had discussed screening with her provider before, and knew it was past time to do something.
“We were going down my list of screenings and she asked if I had done a colonoscopy. That’s when I brought Cologuard up to her.”
It was an option Leanne was familiar with, and an option she felt she would complete. Since Leanne didn’t have any family history and was at average risk, her healthcare provider agreed it would be an appropriate option. She screened right from home – happy to have an option that was noninvasive and didn’t require her to take time from her work as a paraprofessional. Not long after returning her sample, she was told the Cologuard result was positive, and a follow-up colonoscopy was the next step.
“A lot goes through your mind when you hear the word ‘cancer,’” Leanne said. When Leanne was told the colonoscopy revealed stage II cancer and she would need surgery, what went through her mind was how she would overcome and move forward for herself and for her husband.
The weeks between her diagnosis and surgery were some of her hardest.
“There was so much unknown ahead, and it took a lot of leaning on my faith and support from my husband to get through it,” she said.
After nearly 14 hours of surgery, the tumor was removed as were 18 lymph nodes to make sure the cancer had not spread – and it hadn’t. It was an emotional experience for Leanne. She processed her diagnosis and then the news that she wouldn’t need treatment in just a few weeks. Years later, it’s still overwhelming. She thinks about how her story could have been different if she had kept putting screening off.
“I could be going through my day-to-day life right now with colon cancer and wouldn’t know that I had it,” she said.
Leanne gets it – the nerves people feel about screening and the reasons people put it off. Not too long ago, she was one of the nearly 44 million average-risk people who were eligible to get screened.2 She wants others to know it’s always the right time to learn about colon cancer screening options by discussing them with a healthcare provider. And as soon as it’s time to get screened, it shouldn’t wait – when caught in early stages, colon cancer is more treatable.3*
“Having an easy-to-use option like Cologuard made me take the step to get screened, and I’m glad I did. I’m grateful my story wasn’t a different one.”
*Based on 5-year survival
1. NCI. Genetics of colorectal cancer (PDQ) - health professional version. Accessed June 7, 2021. https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/hp/colorectal-genetics-pdq#_235_toc
2. Piscitello A, Edwards DK. Estimating the screening-eligible population size, ages 45-74, at average risk to develop colorectal cancer in the United States. Cancer Prev Res. 2020;13(5):443-448
3. National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: colorectal cancer. Accessed June 9, 2021. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/colorect.html
Cologuard is intended to screen adults 45 years of age and older who are at average risk for colorectal cancer by detecting certain DNA markers and blood in the stool. Do not use if you have had adenomas, have inflammatory bowel disease and certain hereditary syndromes, or a personal or family history of colorectal cancer. Cologuard is not a replacement for colonoscopy in high risk patients. Cologuard performance in adults ages 45-49 is estimated based on a large clinical study of patients 50 and older. Cologuard performance in repeat testing has not been evaluated.
The Cologuard test result should be interpreted with caution. A positive test result does not confirm the presence of cancer. Patients with a positive test result should be referred for diagnostic colonoscopy. A negative test result does not confirm the absence of cancer. Patients with a negative test result should discuss with their doctor when they need to be tested again. False positives and false negative results can occur. In a clinical study, 13% of people without cancer received a positive result (false positive) and 8% of people with cancer received a negative result (false negative). Rx only.