Leshette Benson never thought about getting a colonoscopy.
At age 45, with no family history of the disease, colon cancer had never crossed her mind. But when her primary care physician, Deepshikha Sharda, M.D., Houston Methodist, recommended a colonoscopy, she thought it might be a good idea.
“Dr. Sharda said the recommendations had changed, and that doctors are now encouraging patients to have a colonoscopy at age 45 rather than 50,” said Benson. “It wasn’t something I had ever thought about, but I went ahead and did it. And I’m glad I did.”
Sharda referred Benson to board-certified gastroenterologist Franz Schneider, M.D., of Houston Methodist Gastroenterology Associates at Sugar Land, for a routine colonoscopy. During that procedure, Schneider removed multiple polyps – small growths inside the colon that can eventually become cancerous.
But he also found a large tumor, three inches in size, that tested positive for cancer following a biopsy.
“I had no symptoms, no problems,” said Benson. “I just went because Dr. Sharda recommended it, and then I find out I had cancer. I was shocked because I had no symptoms.”
Early screenings save lives
Benson’s colonoscopy took place and her biopsy results came back, and she underwent extensive blood testing and other diagnostics to determine the extent of her cancer.
At her next appointment, Schneider told her that she would need surgery to remove a small portion of her colon, to ensure that no cancer cells remained. And on Dec. 7, board-certified colorectal surgeon Ali Mahmood, M.D., performed the surgery at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.
After a short stay in the hospital, Benson returned home – cancer-free and ready to spread the word about the importance of colonoscopies.
“I feel like I had a guardian angel looking out for me,” said Benson, who is now 46. “Dr. Schneider told me that if I had waited another few years for a colonoscopy, I would be looking at a completely different outcome. That’s scary to hear.”
Comprehensive care close to home
Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital provides comprehensive, personalized care for the full range of digestive conditions, including acid reflux/GERD; Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; gallbladder and pancreatic diseases; irritable bowel syndrome; and the diagnosis and treatment of colon and rectal cancer.
“Because it is typically slow-growing, colon cancer can be treated very effectively if caught in time,” said Schneider. “Many patients, like Ms. Benson, require only surgery to remove a small section of the colon – no chemotherapy, no radiation. That’s why regular colonoscopies are so important. We are seeing an increase in colon cancer among younger populations, so the shift to regular colonoscopies at age 45 is an important one.”
Schneider’s colleague, board-certified gastroenterologist Anam Omer, M.D., said that no one should fear a colonoscopy.
“The procedure can be done in a few minutes, and the patient is under sedation the entire time,” she said. “There is no pain and within 30 minutes or so afterward, you can go home. It’s important to remember that not only can we check for cancer during the colonoscopy, but we can also remove the polyps that could lead to future issues. So, it’s really a great tool for keeping people healthy.”
A seamless approach to cancer treatment
When cancer is found, the physicians at Houston Methodist Gastroenterology Associates can quickly refer patients to colorectal surgeons such as Mahmood, for further treatment and, if necessary, to oncology specialists at Houston Methodist Cancer Center for chemotherapy. The process is seamless, with the physicians working together to develop a customized treatment plan for each patient.
Most importantly, every service a patient needs is close to home, on the Houston Methodist Sugar Land campus. And the hospital’s compassionate approach to care makes a difference.
“My physicians were all awesome,” said Benson. “They were all so caring. I knew I was in good hands.”
Pay attention to your symptoms
For two months, Tyrome Ervin, 47, experienced mild pain in his abdomen. It would come and go, and he didn’t think much about it. But one day, he noticed blood in his stool, and realized he might have a serious problem.
Ervin made an appointment to see Omer, and after an endoscopy and colonoscopy, she identified a mass in his colon about five centimeters in length.
“When she told me she had a strong feeling it was cancerous, I felt the entire weight of the world on my shoulders,” said Ervin. “My wife started crying, and my heart just sank. But Dr. Omer was so kind; she told me I was going to be okay, that she would make sure I got the best care. Between her confidence and my faith, I felt I was able to hold on.”
Like Benson, Ervin underwent additional testing to determine if his cancer had spread. Fortunately, it had not, and a few weeks later, Mahmood performed successful surgery to remove the tumor and a portion of his colon.
“When I was in the hospital, Dr. Omer and Dr. Mahmood came to see me every day,” Ervin said. “I didn’t know doctors still did that. They made me feel so cared for. And the nurses and other staff at Houston Methodist Sugar Land were just amazing. I want everyone to know what a great team they have there!”
Ervin says everyone should be aware of the value of early detection. “Know your body,” he said. “Pay attention to your symptoms. But if you are 45 or over, don’t wait until you experience symptoms to get a colonoscopy. Do it now, because it could save your life.”
You can schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists with Houston Methodist Gastroenterology Associates at Sugar Land by visiting houstonmethodist.org/gastroenterology or call 346.450.5266.
Visit houstonmethodist.org/sugarland to learn more about Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.