WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Ascension Via Christi’s Dr. David Bryant admits, despite being a cancer doctor and regularly treating patients with colorectal cancer, he had put off getting a colonoscopy.
Bryant serves as medical director and radiation oncologist at Ascension Via Christi Cancer Center. The 51 year old is in great health, but with colorectal cancer trends heading in the younger direction, a fellow staff member urged him to get checked.
“The guidelines were that you get a colon cancer screening at the age of 50. However, by the time I was 50, they had moved it up to 45, because we’re realizing that 12% of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people before the age of 50,” Bryant said.
Ultimately, Bryant says it was the death of actor Chadwick Boseman that flipped the switch for him.
Boseman starred as T’Challa in the movie “Black Panther” and other Avengers movies. Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, but kept his condition largely private while continuing to act. He died in August 2020 at the age of 43.
“That got me to say, ‘Okay, I really need to do my colonoscopy, and I need to be an advocate for colon cancer screening,” Bryant said.
Colon cancer and rectal cancer are largely treatable when detected early. There are six ways to screen for colon cancer, but Bryant calls the colonoscopy “the gold standard.” Patients drink a fluid to cleanse the colon. For the procedure, they are given anesthesia, and the doctor is able to scope the entire colon to screen for cancer and pre-cancerous polyps.
Other forms of screening involve a CT scan and a stool-based test.
Oncology nurse navigator Lisa Schmidt had been urging Bryant to get a colonoscopy for quite some time. For her, it is personal.
“When I was 50, I got screened and found two polyps that were precancerous polyps,” Schmidt said. “My brother-in-law is my age. He did not ever get screened. Basically, an access to care situation.”
While Schmidt was able to have surgery to get her polyps removed, her brother-in-law was discovered to be in stage three colorectal cancer and needed chemotherapy. He is still alive today.
“I entirely prevented a cancer by removing those polyps,” Schmidt said. “I could have easily been in the same situation if I had not had my colonoscopy.”
Her own experience within her family drives her in her mission to detect as many cancers as possible through free screening kits. Anyone can get one.
A grant from Get Your Rear in Gear and the Colon Cancer Coalition allows people to check their stools for blood. The kit contains a wooden stick and an envelope. You can scrape a stool sample while in the comfort of your own home and then mail it. All you have to pay for is the stamp.
Grant funding also pays for the underinsured or for those who need help with insurance copays or deductibles in an attempt to eliminate any barrier to getting tested.
If the test is positive, expect a call from Schmidt to plan the next steps.
“This is the only cancer you can prevent by removing those polyps and getting checked. So, that’s our goal, is to prevent cancers,” she said.
Call 316-268-5890 or look at the flyers posted at area Dillons stores for information to get your kit.
Watch for this story on KSN news at 5 on Monday, March 29.