It’s an anniversary most people don’t ever want to have to celebrate, but Ioannis Schinas is happy to call himself one year cancer free, following a colorectal cancer diagnosis in February of last year.
“I wasn’t nervous about having my colonoscopy this year. I feel lucky to be in Houston with good doctors and I knew they had removed everything,” says Schinas confidently.
Like most colon cancer patients, Schinas had no symptoms of the disease growing inside his body. It wasn’t until his primary care physician encouraged him to do a stool test in December 2016 that started him down the road that would end in a cancer diagnosis. After the test discovered blood in his stool, Schinas went to J. George Sun, M.D., a gastroenterologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center for Schinas’s first-ever colonoscopy.
“The goal of a screening colonscopy is to remove any polyps we find before they become cancerous. Unfortunately in Ioannis’s case, the polyp had already turned cancerous and was large enough that it would need to be removed through surgery,” says Dr. Sun.
Dr. Sun referred Schinas to Scott McKnight, M.D., a colon and rectal surgeon with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City. Dr. McKnight utilized robotic surgical technology to remove the sigmoid colon, a portion of the large intestine.
“When we say ‘robotic surgery,’ people think that means the robot does the surgery on its own, and that’s not the case. The surgeon is controlling each of the robotic instruments from a console in the operating room after the instruments are placed safely in the abdomen and the robot has been docked at the bedside. The robotic instrumentation provides surgeons the ability to make much smaller incisions, more precise movements, and leads to an overall enhanced recovery for patients. Patients experience less pain, are out of the hospital and back to work faster, and have fewer complications when their surgeries are done by experienced robotic surgeons, as compared to traditional methods. Previously in this type of surgery to remove the colon, we would have made a long incision down the midline of the abdomen, which would have required a much longer recovery time with generally more pain,” says Dr. McKnight. “Instead, we were able to make very small incisions and Ioannis was able to go home within a few days.”
Testing on the sigmoid colon revealed that the cancer had not spread to other portions of the body and Schinas would not need chemotherapy.
“I am happy, I am strong, and I am still active. Last year, I told the doctors and nurses that I was strong and I would get the operation and be ok. Today, I am!” says Schinas.
Schinas will continue to have an annual colonoscopy for the next few years. Dr. Sun hopes people will hear his story and make sure they talk with their doctor about getting screened for colon cancer.
“Colon cancer is a relatively slow growing cancer, which is why it’s recommended to have a colonoscopy every 10 years, usually beginning around age 50. However, due to family history and certain other risk factors, people may need to begin their screening colonoscopies at an earlier age or have them more frequently,” says Dr. Sun.
The American Cancer Society also encourages people to eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, which have been linked to a lower colorectal cancer risk.
“A high fiber diet is not only good for helping to move the bowels daily, but recent studies also indicate it helps to feed the growth of good bacteria in the colon which are linked to a myriad of good health benefits, including lowering the colon cancer risk,” says Dr. Sun.
Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers use an integrated approach for full-scope patient-centered cancer care. Learn more about colon cancer risk factors, prevention, and treatment options, or schedule a screening colonoscopy.