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Mary Criswel - Life Saving Test

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Local Woman Credits Test with Saving Life

Mary Criswell is just like all of us. She is a mother and a grandmother. She has a job. She is an active member of our community and enjoys good health.

Mary is at very low risk for colorectal cancer. No one in her immediate family has ever had colon cancer and she had none of the common symptoms such as blood in the stool, chronic bloating and gas, abdominal discomfort and pain and changes in bowel habits. She was asked at work if she was 50 or over, had any family history of colorectal cancer or had had a colonoscopy in the past ten years. All her answers were negative. She was offered a free colorectal screening test. Her job requires her to offer the test to others so she thought she should try it herself. CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas) supplied the funding for the kits.

Mary was given a kit called InSure FIT to take home. The test involves taking two small samples of stool by using a brush to swab them in the toilet bowl and then placing the sample on a small card. “The instructions were clear and it was easy to use,” she said. “I dropped it off at QUAD (Quad Counties Council Cancer Prevention Program) and didn’t really think anything of it.”

Shortly after Mary got a call. Her test had come back positive. Colorectal cancer remains the third deadliest cancer in the United States among men and women according to the American Cancer Society. However, early detection and treatment means saving lives. There is a 90% survival rate after five years with early treatment. Colon cancer begins as a growth called a polyp. These polyps start out small and benign but may later become cancerous. Preventing colorectal cancer simply involves removing the polyps so they do not have a chance to ever become cancer.

Naturally Mary was nervous and frightened. She had no symptoms at all. She hoped it was stress or something she ate. She was scheduled for a colonoscopy with Dr. Lindsey shortly after her positive result came back. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a small tube with a tiny camera and a light into the anus and then up to the colon. The doctor can then see exactly what is going on by looking at a television screen. There is no discomfort to the patient. He or she can also remove any polyps while doing the procedure so there is usually no need to have it repeated in a short time frame. They then send the polyps for testing to see if they are cancerous.

Mary had one very small polyp which her doctor removed. He told her the day of the procedure it was his educated opinion that there was no cancer but sent off the sample just to be sure. It was benign.

“I feel so grateful for this test,” said Mary, “I believe it may have saved my life.”

The test is free of charge if you meet the eligibility requirements. If you are over 50 years of age, do not have a history of colorectal cancer in your immediate family, have not had a colonoscopy in the past ten years or a sigmoidoscopy in the past five years and have not had a fecal occult blood test screening in the past 12 months. Just stop by or call one of the screening locations for more information. Amistad Medical Professionals Walk-in clinic, 1200 N. Bedell, (830) 774-2505 or HOPE Cancer Resource Center, inside Val Verde Regional Medical Center, 801 N. Bedell, (830) 775-8566 or QUAD Counties Council, 1401 Las Vacas St., (830) 774-7411.

Mary Criswall is a great example of a success story for this important testing. She had no symptoms but got tested regardless. She was screened, got a colonoscopy and had a polyp removed all at no cost to her very possibly preventing her from getting cancer. Why does she share this very personal information with you? “If I can save one person,” she says, “it will be worth it.”