For the past six years, Randy Schroder of Minto, North Dakota, has been visiting Altru’s Urology Department for regular six-month check-ups. In 2011 he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had tumors removed, and has been keeping a close eye on it ever since.
During a routine urology appointment in April of 2016, Randy had a different nurse than usual. Susan Bostad, RN, who is usually in procedural services, was filling in that day.
“She was so sincere,” explains Randy. “She asked me, ‘Randy, have you thought about having a colonoscopy done? I really care about the patients I work with.’ I had one years ago because of abdominal pain, but hadn’t considered it recently.”
Because of his history of bladder cancer, Randy’s risk was higher. He was over 50. Perhaps it was time for a routine screening?
Do I Really Need a Colonoscopy?
Randy casually mentioned it to his wife on the drive home, and she set up an appointment. Two weeks later, he was getting a colonoscopy.
“The whole process felt like 10 minutes,” shares Randy. “Mid-way through the procedure, though, I remember my doctor gave the nurse a head nod, and I don’t remember a thing after that.”
Randy’s “10 minutes” was really two hours.
Dr. Howard Hack, a gastroenterologist at Altru Health System, had spotted ribbon-like tissue that was a different kind of polyp—a flat colon polyp.
“Flat colon polyps went unnoticed until 10 years ago,” explains Dr. Hack. “My former colleague at Stanford, Dr. Roy Soteikno, published a landmark article in March of 2008 about them. Flat polyps account for about 10 percent of all colon polyps. They are thought to have at least the same potential for developing into colon cancer as regular polyps, and in fact, some of them probably are more pre-cancerous.”
Dr. Hack continued, “Flat polyps are only visible by observing subtle changes in the lining of the colon. Sometimes, they are covered with a thin mucous-like layer which betrays their location. If you miss it, then you are at risk for colon cancer.”
Peace Out, Polyp
Thanks to Dr. Hack’s trained eye, Randy’s flat polyp was quickly and painlessly removed before it turned into cancer.
“I use the technique called Endoscopic Mucosal Resection,” explains Dr. Hack. “This involves injecting a bubble of saline mixed with a blue dye, which lifts the polyp tissue away from the lining of the colon, allowing me to identify the border. I remove the polyp and secure the site with temporary clips which fall off after a few weeks. This allows the site to heal with low risk of bleeding.”
Randy is relieved Dr. Hack was skilled in recognizing this type of polyp and promptly removed it. “He said it was about the size of a quarter,” shares Randy. “He sent it off to be tested, and the results were benign. But, I looked it up online and found that if left untreated, it almost always turns to cancer.”
Randy’s future care plan involves an annual colonoscopy, and he regularly visits urology for check-ups.
“I saw nurse Sue again at my bladder check six months after having the flat polyp removed,” says Randy. “She was so happy to hear I had my colonoscopy done. Her encouragement might have saved my life.”
The 6’4” diesel mechanic thanked her and gave her a heartfelt hug.
“I can’t believe the difference she made. If I hit the lottery tomorrow, I’d give Sue a million dollars,” beams Randy. “She definitely prolonged my life.”
Due to advancements in detection and treatment, colorectal cancer death rate has been dropping for more than 20 years. When detected early, it’s treatable. Colonoscopy is the best line of defense in reducing risk. Schedule yours today >>