“It’s fast, it’s simple and it saved my life.” 

Drusilla “Dolly” McCarley is talking about getting a colonoscopy. She’s not squeamish about the subject, but she used to be. As a nurse clinician at UTMB, she knew that all adults should get screened by the age of 50, but kept putting it off.
“I had talked about getting screened several times with my primary care provider, but just never went through with it,” says Dolly. “Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to the prep, which I heard was gross, and the procedure didn’t sound pleasant, either. My mother had colon cancer when she was 75, but my four older sisters had been screened and were fine, so I thought the odds were pretty good in my favor.”
Her luck ran out in 2012, when she was 57. Thinking she had gallstones, she went to her doctor, who found nothing wrong with her gallbladder and recommended that she get a colonoscopy. 
“Once I had a colonoscopy, I felt ridiculous for putting it off. There was nothing to it. The procedure was simple and painless. I still kick myself for not doing it earlier.”
Dolly woke up to some good and bad news. First, the bad news: during her screening, a mass was found in her colon. If she had gotten a colonoscopy a few years earlier, doctors may have been able to remove any precancerous polyps before they turned into cancer. The good news: the cancer had not spread and could still be treated. 
Over the next year, she underwent chemo and had surgery at UTMB to remove part of her colon. 
“We have great endoscopy doctors and GI surgeons at UTMB, so I’m grateful that I could stay local and receive all my treatment in Galveston. The hardest thing was to tell my children that I had colon cancer and go over everything with them - the surgery plans, my will and insurance papers, etc., but they turned out to be the greatest supporters. My friends also rallied and gave me rides to and from chemo and brought food to the house. They all made sure I kept fighting.”
Three years later and cancer-free, she has made it her mission to break the stigma surrounding colon cancer and screening. 
“It shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Everyone, *GASP*, has a colon and we all know what it does. It’s an important organ that needs to be screened and not speaking openly about it makes no sense.”
Dolly points to the fact that colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S. The stigma and embarrassment surrounding it has made it one of the most misunderstood forms of cancer. But if it’s discovered early, colorectal cancer can also be one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Regular screening and removal of polyps can reduce colorectal cancer risk by up to 90 percent. However, Dr. Gurinder Luthra, an associate professor in UTMB’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, says screening rates are low, with only 60 percent of individuals getting regular colonoscopies. 
“Colorectal cancer is largely preventable,” says Luthra.  “If we can educate people, dispel misinformation on screening methods and encourage them to get a colonoscopy at the right time, a lot of lives would be saved.” 
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. So you can look healthy and feel fine and not know there may be a problem.  Luthra says that’s why having a colonoscopy is so important. 
“One of the most common misconceptions I hear patients say is ‘I don’t need a colonoscopy because I don’t have symptoms.’ But the majority of the time, when one has symptoms, like rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss and anemia, it’s too late and the lesion may be more advanced. Don’t wait to have symptoms before you get a colonoscopy.” 
While it is recommended that anyone age 50 or older be screened for colorectal cancer every 10 years, patients at high risk or who have a history of colorectal cancer in their families should consult their doctor and begin screening at an earlier age. 
Dolly spends much of her spare time communicating this information to others. She recently organized a table in the lobby of the John Sealy Hospital on March 6, Dress in Blue Day, to help raise colon cancer awareness and provide information on screening.

She also facilitates a UTMB GI cancer support group that was founded by her friend and former “chemo buddy,” Robert Webster, who has been battling colon cancer for about eight years. Dolly, along with other members of the support group, formed a Relay for Life team called the UTMB Cancer Crushers. Her team raised more than $8,000 last year. 
“Surviving colon cancer has certainly put things in perspective on what is important and what is not. I am now far more proactive in my life than I have ever been about my health. Sometimes you get caught up with your kids and everything else going on and put yourself last, but everyone needs to think about their health. Getting screened for colon cancer should be part of your staying well plan – you get your mammogram, your pap smear, your prostate checked, and you should get your colonoscopy, too.”
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
A colonoscopy is among the most effective methods for early detection of colorectal cancer or polyps. It is an outpatient procedure that is simple, quick and easy.  
About 37 percent of UTMB employees are over the age of 50. Preventive care services for UTMB employees and retirees, including routine colonoscopies, are covered 100 percent by the UT Select Health Plan.
It’s fast, it’s easy and it could save your life. If you are 50 or older, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
For more information, speak with your primary care physician, call (409) 772-4798 or visit utmbhealth.com/colorectal
Here’s what other UTMB employees said about their experience getting screened:

  "The procedure is quick and painless." - Sandra Low, UTMB Bookstore
 "It's an easy thing to do for my health and peace of mind." - Dr. Stacey Gibbons, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology 
"I've done it myself; you'll be surprised how easy it is. I assure patients that they are in good hands. I"ll do all I can to make it as pleasant as possible. Call me anytime to discuss the step-by-step process. You can do it!" - Angela Kunz, Patient Service Specialist