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‘Just get ’er done’ is advice on colon scopes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

No matter one’s age, postponing a colonoscopy is never a good idea.

Two area residents who are quick to proclaim the value of taking time for the procedure are Kelly Reichman, now 46, of Julesburg, and Eloise Harms, 88, of Paoli.

“Just get ’er done,” said Reich­man last week. Discomfort finally pushed the 45-year-old farmer/rancher from Julesburg to go to the doctor last spring.

By then, he had a tumor that was 5 centimeters across and too big to remove with a snare. An April 29 surgery took about 18 inches of his colon, 32 lymph nodes and the tumor. The inner 1 centimeter of the tumor was cancerous, but the rest was not, said Reichman.

That 5-centimeter tumor was messing up his bowel movements and was finally the signal for him to get to the doctor. He admits he reached a point of misery before doing so.

Today Reichman readily points out that if he’d gone in three years earlier, he potentially could have just had polyps picked off and been done with it.

Instead, he endured major surgery followed by six days in the hospital, six weeks of home recuperation and six months of gradually moving back into steady work.

Eloise Harms said the last several years she was receptive to having a colonoscopy but always said she just needed to wait until after harvest. Instead of scheduling a postharvest appointment, it kept getting pushed back to the next year.

Like Reichman, she reached a discomfort level with symptoms last summer and had a colonoscopy June 5. Two weeks later, she underwent surgery to remove a mass and several pre-cancerous polyps that were too big to take out in the scope.

No cancer was detected, but Harms said Dr. James Schiefen warned her that with another couple of years, she could have been in big trouble. As it was, the polyps were too big to remove by a simple colonoscopy and therefore required surgery.

She underwent a one-week hospital stay and said it was a couple of months before she was back to normal.

While Harms was 88 when she had her first colonoscopy, and was certainly glad that she did, she recommends the procedure be done at a much younger age — particularly for those with a family history of colon issues.

Harms’ daughter, Linda Alberts, 64, of Holyoke, works at Melissa Memorial Hospital and said she’d been thinking she should probably get on a wait list for a colonoscopy.

After Harms’ diagnosis, she urged her daughter not to wait. Alberts accepted the nudge. Her scope also resulted in the finding of pre-cancerous polyps. Because of the early stage, they could be removed in the colonoscopy. Another couple of years of waiting most likely could have found Alberts facing surgery as well.

Detection of polyps in Harms and Alberts spurred Alberts’ husband, Vern, to have his first colonoscopy at age 71. It was clear but gave great peace of mind.

Alberts said she was told to warn her boys, who are 40 and 44, that they should be looking to have colon scopes.

In general, if there’s no family history of polyps, a colonoscopy is recommended at the age of 50.

However, those who have family members (brother, sister, mother, father or grandparent) who have had polyps, colon screenings are recommended at a younger age.

Mary Kay Knode, who schedules screenings for Schiefen at the specialty clinic at Melissa Memorial Hospital, said the first step is to speak with a primary care provider.

If a father is diagnosed with colon polyps, then his children are advised to have a colonoscopy when they’re 15 years younger than he was at that time. For example, if the father is 55 when diagnosed, his children should be scoped at age 40.

Soaring numbers of young people will develop bowel cancer within the next 20 years, an alarming study has warned. While cases in the over-50s have declined, numbers for younger adults age 20-49 are expected to skyrocket.

The three main symptoms for colorectal cancer are blood in the stools, changes in bowel habit and abdominal pain.

“You think you don’t have time for a scope?” said Reichman. “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” he advises.

Reichman credits his wife Trena for not only keeping their diversified livestock operation running during his surgery and recuperation time but also for managing the household, including their three children, ages 7, 5 and 3. Family helped when needed, and the Reichmans are glad the surgery is behind them.

Alberts said a colonoscopy isn’t the most pleasant thing, but it’s not that bad. Reichman added that one is sedated during the scope itself.

Eloise Harms, pictured at left, had her first colonoscopy, which led to surgery this past summer, at the age of 88. That spurred her daughter Linda Alberts, at right, to schedule a colonoscopy as well. They firmly recommend regular scopes.  

—Enterprise photo

The procedure involves a 24-hour liquid diet prior to the scope, taking a colonoscopy prep to clean out the system and feeling tired afterward. “It’s really a simple procedure,” said Alberts.

“And knowing beats fear every time,” said Reichman. Taking out a couple of days every four or five years for a scope isn’t much considering the comfort it gives in knowing where one is at.

“Set a date instead of postponing,” added Harms.

Through the Colorado Colorectal Screening Program, the local specialty clinic has a limited number of screenings they can provide for those who can’t afford the cost for a colonoscopy and who meet the criteria for the program. For information on this program, contact Knode at 970-854-2241, ext. 316.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. Early detection through regular colon screenings can make a life-saving difference.

Holyoke Enterprise November 20, 2014