Listening To Her Own Advice
Judy Corliss had colon cancer, and she lives to tell others.
Something in the back of her mind, a kind of sixth sense, she now believes, told Judy Corliss to schedule an early colonoscopy. An RN certified in gastroenterology and working in the endoscopy laboratory at SBCH, she of all people understood its importance. At 49, she hadn’t quite reached the recommended age for this screening test, but today she remains thankful that she listened to that inner voice.
Because sure enough, a tumor was detected in Judy’s colon—and successfully removed in a subsequent surgery. Other than being a little anemic, which she believed was related to something else, Judy hadn’t been aware of any symptoms. However, following a regimen of chemotherapy, “the very best care at Cottage” and a seven-month period of recovery, she has become a fervent campaigner about the need to schedule this exam.
Such advocacy is echoed by all of the staff in the department. “If you love your family, you’ll get the test,” claims long-time clinical manager Kim Morales. “We really applaud all those who come in. They’re the heroes, and they tell others that it wasn’t as bad as they’d thought.”
What exactly is a colonoscopy? It’s a procedure whereby a gastrointestinal specialist examines the lining of your colon—or large bowel—for abnormalities. It’s done by inserting a long, thin flexible tube through the anus and advancing it slowly into the rectum and colon. The tube has a tiny video camera on the end which the physician watches as the scope is in the colon, looking for polyps and other abnormalities. Tiny tools can be passed through the scope to remove any growths that are found. The procedure generally takes less than an hour, and medications are given to keep patients comfortable. Because it’s important that the bowels be clear and clean for the examination, patients are given a “prep” medication by their physician the day before and instructed to eat only clear liquids until midnight, with nothing to eat or drink between midnight and the actual procedure. And staying close to a bathroom is paramount.
“Some people are intimidated by the test,” admits Judy. “But our GI doctors are mellow and kind to their patients, and very experienced. And the endoscopy staff—my colleagues—are incredible from the moment a patient walks in. I know that.”
All of the endoscopy staff at Cottage—nurses, technicians and a unit coordinator—recognize the importance of privacy and modesty for their patients, and do everything possible to make the patient experience as pleasant as they can.
“We call it our spa,” says Kim, referring to the third floor endoscopy laboratory at SBCH. “There’s tons of TLC, and reassuring back rubs, and afterwards, you’ll get the best cranberry juice you’ve ever had!”
Judy Corliss, a certified Gastrointestinal Nurse at SBCH, was named a 2008 Hospital Hero by the National Healthcare Foundation for her relentless promotion and education surrounding colorectal cancer prevention, as well as her advocacy work in autism, and her leadership among Cottage employees in its shared governance program.
If you need to schedule a colonoscopy, talk first to your doctor.
If you need to find a gastroenterologist on the Cottage medical staff, please use the Find a Physician directory.
The SBCH Endoscopy Lab recently received the American Society of Gastroenterology Endoscopy (ASGE) Recognition Award for Excellence. It is one of the first in the nation to receive this prestigious designation which honors units committed to the highest standards of safety and quality.
Know These Five Facts
- Colorectal cancer remains the third most common cancer in the United States, and after lung cancer, the most deadly.
- Colorectal cancer affects men and women in almost equal numbers.
- A simple colonoscopy can save your life. Colorectal cancer is almost always curable if detected early, but nearly half of Americans who should be tested do not schedule regular screenings. Screening tests can detect polyps before they become cancerous and can detect cancer in its early stages.
- A colonoscopy is recommended for both men and women starting at the age of 50, and every 10 years from then on. Those at high risk (family history, previous colorectal cancer, predisposing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease) should consult with a healthcare provider about whether they should schedule more frequent exams or begin screening at a younger age.
- Warning signs of colorectal cancer can include black stool, red blood in the stool, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel patterns.