Start Spreading the News, Get Your Cancer Screening Today
Undergoing chemotherapy for colorectal cancer didn’t keep Warminster resident Mark McKee down. He continued working as a drywall finisher throughout a three-month course of treatment at Abington Memorial Hospital’s Rosenfeld Cancer Center. He remained active in local politics as a member of the Board of Supervisors in Warminster Township.
Furthermore, during this time, Mark also was driven to champion the importance of early detection of colorectal cancer through screening colonoscopy. “After all, that test helped to save my life,” he says.
Mark had been working at a construction site a few months ago when he happened to run into his family doctor. “Since we bumped into each other by chance, I figured I’d take the opportunity to tell him about some symptoms I’d been experiencing,” recalls Mark. Because his job requires a lot of heavy lifting, Mark suspected the blood in his stool was the result of hemorrhoids, which are common in his profession.
To help pinpoint the cause of Mark’s symptoms, his physician ordered a colonoscopy (a test involving a thin, flexible tube to examine the inner lining of the colon). At 47, Mark was three years shy of the age the American Cancer Society recommends for screening colonoscopy. His test revealed a rectal polyp (an abnormal growth in the lining of the rectum, which is part of the large intestine). Most polyps are noncancerous and can be removed during a colonoscopy. Mark’s polyp was too large to be removed during his procedure, so the doctor took a tissue sample for biopsy (study under a microscope).
“I was petrified, when the doctor (Wayne H. Pinover, DO, radiation oncologist) confirmed I had rectal cancer,” says Mark, “but in the same breath, he told me my cancer could be cured because they caught it early. I’m going to be okay.” Thanks to the colonoscopy, doctors detected Mark’s large, invasive tumor in an early stage, before it had spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
After being diagnosed, Mark had consultations with Oncologist Willard G. Andrews, III, MD, and Surgeon D. Mark Zebley, MD. Both specialists recommended that Mark consider participating in a clinical trial being conducted at Abington Health’s Center for Clinical Research. “Through clinical trials, we hope to find and prove the effectiveness of new treatments for cancer, and also focus on how to improve the patient’s wellbeing and quality of life while undergoing treatment,” explains Kelly Pressler, RN, nurse navigator, Rosenfeld Cancer Center.
In Mark’s study, researchers hope to learn whether or not chemotherapy alone in patients who must undergo surgery for rectal cancer, will be as effective as the current standard treatment, which combines chemotherapy with radiation. “Mark is a great candidate for this clinical trial,” says Dr. Andrews. “He meets all the criteria, he’s young and otherwise healthy, and he has a great attitude.”
“It’s a win-win situation for me,” says Mark. “Either way, I’d have to have chemotherapy and surgery, so if they can shrink my tumor without having to use radiation as well, it’s a bonus. Plus they can use the information they collect to help other cancer patients.”
Helping others continues to be among Mark’s top priorities. “Nobody wants to hear the word colonoscopy because it makes them uncomfortable,” says Mark. “I’m spreading the news any way I can in our local community. Get your screening colonoscopy at age 50. The test isn’t a big deal and it might just save your life. It saved mine.”