Sandra Heinz began having colon cancer screenings at age 39 because her father, now 85, is a colon cancer survivor. In September 2018, Sandra’s gastroenterologist, Ahmad Ascha, MD, discovered a “suspicious polyp” during her colonoscopy. Although many colorectal polyps aren’t harmful, nearly all colorectal cancers start as polyps.
Dr. Ascha was unable to remove the polyp with the scope instruments to have it biopsied for cancer, so he recommended surgery to remove it. Sandra was just 51.
On September 14, 2018, colorectal surgeon Timothy Pritchard, MD, began Sandra’s surgery at TriPoint Medical Center. When he removed the polyp, he was suspicious that it was, in fact, cancerous. So Dr. Pritchard removed a 12-inch segment of Sandra’s colon and reconnected the healthy colon tissue. Biopsy testing confirmed that the polyp was an early stage 1 colon cancer.
Sandra was discharged three days after her surgery, felt well and was back to work―on her feet as a hairdresser―just nine days after her surgery.
Providing better recovery
Sandra’s quick and effective recovery was due, in part, to the new evidence-based ERAS (enhanced recovery after surgery) protocol. The ERAS practices that improved Sandra’s post-operative recovery included minimal use of narcotics, minimal use of drains, and quicker resumption of activity and solid foods.
“ERAS improves the patient experience before, during and after colon surgery,” says Dr. Pritchard. “It speeds recovery and reduces time in the hospital. It allowed Sandra’s discharge two to three days earlier than with standard protocols.”
“My whole experience has been so good. Dr. Pritchard was comfortable and professional, and TriPoint was fabulous,” Sandra says. “I had cancer, but it’s gone! I encourage you: Be smart. Be proactive! Early screening can make the difference, especially if you have a family history of disease. Then let your family know of your diagnosis so they can have that information put in their own medical record as a potential risk.”
“Follow your physician’s guidelines for preventive care so that diagnoses can be made in the early stages of disease,” advises Dr. Pritchard. “We’ll never have a perfect world, but screening and preventive care can minimize your risk for the serious effects of all types of disease, not just colon cancer.”
Lake Health practices ERAS (enhanced recovery after surgery) protocol for several types of surgery.
Many colorectal polyps are harmless, but nearly all colorectal cancers start as polyps.
The American Cancer Society now recommends colon cancer screening beginning at age 45 for those without risk factors or a family history of colorectal cancer. African Americans and those with risk factors or a family history should talk with their doctor about when to begin screenings.
Meet the Doctors
Ahmad Ascha, MD
Office: Mentor, 440-352-9400
Timothy Pritchard, MD
Specialty: general and colorectal surgery
Office: Mentor, 440-354-0377