Colon Cancer Diagnosis After Avoiding Screening for Twenty Years Emphasizes Importance of Early Detection

Most people cringe when they hear the word “colonoscopy” and Bill Repsher, 72, was no exception. In fact, he vehemently dismissed the nearly 20 years of coaxing from his family physician, Michael Abgott, MD, to get the test done. But for some reason, Bill’s last visit was different. Dr. Abgott told him about an at-home test that can detect some markers for cancer or other issues in the colon. Slightly comforted by the idea of administering the test at home, Bill reluctantly agreed. “I had been a patient of Dr. Abgott’s since 1982 and when I see him, I feel more like a friend than a patient,” explains Bill. “So when he stressed again how important it was for someone my age to get screened for colon cancer and that I could start the process on my own, it sunk in this time.”

“Resistance to a colonoscopy is very common, but I never waiver when encouraging my patients to get their recommended screenings,” says Dr. Abgott. “While the colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon cancer screening, I’m happy to be able to offer my patients an at-home stool kit if they are more comfortable with that option.” After Bill’s at-home test was analyzed, Dr. Abgott notified him that there was a possible problem, so a colonoscopy was absolutely necessary.

Bill was referred to Kimberly Chaput, DO, gastroenterologist, St. Luke’s Gastroenterology Specialists, to perform his colonoscopy. “During my first visit with Mr. Repsher, I explained that given the results of the at-home fecal immunohistochemical test, we needed to do a colonoscopy, which is a more definitive test,” says Dr. Chaput. As it turned out, the colonoscopy was not nearly as bad as he envisioned, however, the prognosis was very concerning. Immediately following the colonoscopy, Bill and his wife, Marcia, learned that he had a tumor.

After Dr. Chaput confirmed that the tumor was indeed cancerous and would need to be removed, she assured him that his whole medical team would see him through the process of colorectal surgery. Before the surgery, Bill and his wife met with Daniel Eyvazzadeh, MD, FACS, FASCRS, Colon and Rectal Surgeon. “It’s estimated that only about 30 percent of patients are actually getting their preventive colonoscopies as recommended by doctors,” explains Dr. Eyvazzadeh. “But without this screening, the remaining 70 percent are at risk for presenting what was a preventable cancer.” Bill’s surgery was a success and Bill was completely cancer free. Using minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, Dr. Eyvazzadeh was able to remove the affected colon including the tumor and lymph nodes, and reconnect him without the need for a colostomy.

Four weeks post-surgery, Bill was resuming normal activity and his internal systems were operating properly. As precaution, he will have routine post-colon cancer care including labs and the once-dreaded colonoscopy to make sure he remains healthy.

Bill’s journey from screening to removal of the cancer was a little over a month. “Within a relatively short period of time, Bill’s colon cancer was gone, which can be clearly attributed to the at-home kit and subsequent colonoscopy,” says Dr. Abgott. “The whole purpose for screening is to find problems early enough to do something about it - that’s why primary doctors continue to recommend screening exams like colonoscopies and mammograms - so we can coordinate with the other highly skilled doctors at St. Luke’s and address the problem before it progresses.”

“Had it not been for the urging of Dr. Abgott and the expert care of Drs. Chaput and Eyvazzadeh, I would not be alive today,” recalls Bill. “Now, I’m enjoying my life, spending time with my wife, kids and grandkids - I will forever be grateful.”