Only 11% of people diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer survive. “Fifty percent of these patients had no symptoms,” says Gastroenterologist, Dr. Nizar Charafeddine. “So when we find the cancer, it’s in advanced stages. It’s the second leading cause of death by cancer in the US (behind lung cancer). This is not an ‘old man’s disease,’ and women and men are affected equally. Yet, it’s 90-95% preventable.”
So passionate about prevention, Dr. Charafeddine has partnered with the Rose B. Johnson Foundation to spread awareness.
This is personal.
Rose knows about colon cancer. She is one of the rare survivors. As recommended, Rose did her first colonoscopy at age 50. Rose says, “The doctor found polyps and removed them. He recommended I return in five years. But I didn’t like the drink (a bowel-clearing solution that’s part of colonoscopy prep), so I didn’t return. Ten years later something was protruding from my naval. My polyps had grown back, multiplied, and I had stage IV colon cancer with a prognosis of six months to a year to live. It had metastasized to my liver, lungs and ovaries. I was not a candidate for surgery. I was terminal. Hearing you have cancer is the worst thing in the world. I needed to make a will. I needed to tell my neighbor I didn’t hate her. My daughter had passed away, and I was caring for my grandchildren…what would become of them? Let my heartbreak be your wake-up call.”
But after seven years, many treatments and two recurrences, Rose beat her unimaginable odds. “I was lucky…but I wish that battle on no one. Chemotherapy is terrible. I thought of throwing in the towel many times. But the alternative was death. All because I didn’t want the dreaded drink. I want my story of skipping a colonoscopy to scare you to death.”
Even with the dismal colon cancer prognosis and the high success rate of early screening, about 60% of our population is skipping recommended colonoscopies. Dr. Charafeddine says, “Like Rose, many people don’t like the drink. But they’re getting better, and today we have many options. Others are afraid of being put to sleep or the very minor risks involved. As Rose attests, none of these compare to hearing, ‘You have colon cancer.’ A normal procedure takes 30 minutes. If we find precancerous polyps, we remove them immediately. Afterward you’re able to eat lunch and get on with your day.”
The majority of health insurance policies pay colonoscopies at 100%. For the uninsured and underinsured, Dr. Charafeddine and the Rose B. Johnson Foundation are here to help. Candidates receive an initial office visit with Dr. Charafeddine, “the drink,” the colonoscopy, and any required follow-up and labs. Rose has accompanied her patients to every colonoscopy performed through her foundation. Rose says, “It’s unacceptable for us to lose our loved ones because of lack of knowledge or a financial barrier. I met Dr. Charafeddine at a health fair and what a blessing he has been. He is my partner in saving lives. I don’t know if I could find another doctor that would do what Dr. Charafeddine does.”
No excuses. Get the movement going.
Rose B. Johnson Foundation
1270 Crabb River Road, Suite 600-75, Richmond, TX 77469