“If your doctor tells you to get a colonoscopy, don’t wait—just schedule it and get it done!” advises Shawn Ryan, a 53-year-old father of three from Evesham, NJ.

Shawn, who survived stage-3 colon cancer, should know. His tumor wasn't discovered until he had his first colonoscopy—a full year after his doctor had advised him to schedule it. Shawn sometimes wonders if his diagnosis of stage-3 cancer would've been different, maybe stage 1, if he hadn't delayed the test. That difference would've made his course of treatment quite different.

Shawn may never know the answer to that question. But, the good news is that his diagnosis and treatment were successful. He's back to living his life to the fullest—working harder than ever at his sales job and enjoying his family. He made a full recovery thanks to the excellent care he received from Virtua's expert physicians and staff.

A surprise diagnosis leads to expert care

When Shawn scheduled his colonoscopy, he expected nothing but a normal result. There was no history of colon cancer in his family.

When Shawn awoke from anesthesia after his colonoscopy, he was shocked to learn that the doctor found a mass in his colon. What had started as a routine screening was now serious. Shawn was admitted to Virtua for further tests and treatment.

Shawn Ryan and Virtua Colorectal Surgeon Avi Galler, MD. (Virtua Health)
Shawn Ryan and Virtua Colorectal Surgeon Avi Galler, MD. (Virtua Health)

Fellowship-trained colorectal surgeon Avi Galler, MD, performed Shawn’s colon resection. He removed the diseased parts of the colon and reattached the healthy sections. To Shawn's tremendous relief, Dr. Galler used advanced robotic-assisted techniques and a stent so Shawn wouldn't need a colostomy (when one end of the large intestine is diverted through an incision in the abdominal wall to create a stoma, which is an opening in the skin where a pouch for collecting feces is attached).

“Today’s robotic technology eliminates the need for open abdominal surgery and provides more precision than a standard laparoscopic procedure—reducing pain, risk of infection and time spent in the hospital,” says Dr. Galler.

Shawn went home just 3 days after his surgery.

Team approach to cancer treatment

Shawn completed 6 months of chemotherapy under the care of Carlos Madamba, MD, an oncologist with the Penn Medicine | Virtua Cancer Program in Voorhees. Having access to treatment close to home made the process less stressful on Shawn and his family. As Shawn describes it, “We always felt supported. The doctors were very helpful in explaining everything to me and my wife so we understood all aspects of my treatment. It made things easier to cope with.”

Shawn finished chemo in June 2016 and has been cancer free ever since.

“I just had my second follow-up colonoscopy with Dr. Galler, and it was completely clear.” When asked if his cancer diagnosis changed his life, Shawn’s answer is a resounding YES. "I appreciate everything much more now. It was a hard lesson, but it was also a great eye-opener. I just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.”

Most importantly, Shawn wants his personal story to remind people not to put off their colonoscopy. Early screening really does save lives because doctors can remove polyps early before they become cancerous and require more aggressive treatment.

Take it from Shawn: “The prep and the screening may not be much fun, but a colon cancer diagnosis is much worse. Get your colonoscopy!”

Should you get a colonoscopy?

Everyone over age 50 should have this important screening, but you may need one sooner if you experience a change in bowl habits such as blood in your stool or thinning stool, or if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer.

At last count, 1/3 of Americans between the ages of 50-75 have not had a colonoscopy.

If you're in this group—take Shawn's advice and don't delay it any longer.

Call 888-847-8823 to schedule your colonoscopy today.  

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