July 19, 2018

MedStar Helps in Battle Against Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer

Virginia Wills went a long way between 2016 and 2017: from battling Colon Cancer with the help of medical professionals at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital one year to celebrating a daughter’s wedding and the arrival of her first grandchild the next.

In August 2016, Ms. Wills had a colonoscopy and when she awoke from the procedure, the news from her doctor was not good – she was sent directly to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital because she had a large tumor in her colon. She was referred to colon and rectal surgeon Tushar Samdani, MD, and it appeared that surgery would soon follow.

“Dr. Samdani ordered a CT scan and it was discovered the cancer had metastasized to my right lung,” said Ms. Wills, a resident of Waldorf.

A few days later he told her the biopsy results showed she had Stage IV cancer. “Literally, it just knocks the wind right out of you,” she said.

Dr. Samdani immediately coordinated care for Ms. Wills and in less than a week, she had started chemotherapy. After six rounds of treatment, she underwent surgery on her right lung in November at another hospital and about a month later, Dr. Samdani removed the tumor in her colon — as well as 27 lymph nodes – at MedStar St. Mary’s in Leonardtown.

Ms. Wills was 54 when her journey started, had undergone a previous colonoscopy a few years earlier that showed no problems, and had no history of colon cancer in her family.

“I took my health for granted,” she said. “You never really know how good you feel, until you feel very bad.”

Ms. Wills admits that recovery has not been easy. After the surgeries to remove part of her lung and colon and two rounds of chemotherapy that were six sessions each, regaining her stamina has taken time.

“At least I got to go through it, many people don’t get that chance,” she said. “I credit Dr. Samdani — and all of my other doctors — for me being here today.”

Best of all, she was able to celebrate the birth of her grandchild and attend her daughter’s wedding.

“It was such a wonderful affair,” Ms. Wills said, “in so many ways.”

Patients Are Getting Younger

Dr. Samdani said recently that about 10 to 15 percent of his colon cancer patients are younger than 50, the recommended age most people have their first colonoscopy.

“Many times younger patients are not properly diagnosed,” he said, “often because this is the age they want to do a lot of other things and they neglect their own health, and they are not referred by a primary care physician.”

Anyone with symptoms like bleeding from the rectum, a change in bowel movements, or unexplained weight loss should make an appointment with their doctor or a gastroenterologist, he said.

“The truth is, no one wants to get a colonoscopy, it is not a pleasurable experience, but it could save your life,” Dr. Samdani said.

For more information and one-click access to a full list of resources available at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, visit their Leader Page.

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