Alyssa Blair is only 24 years old, but when she noticed a potential symptom of colorectal cancer — changing bathroom habits — she didn’t wait to get screened. She knew the risk.
She works the front desk at South Hill Gastro outside of Pittsburgh, helping up to 50 patients a day through the colonoscopy process. More importantly, her mom Judy was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer at age 49 just a few years ago.
“She’s in remission right now, thank God,” Alyssa says.
But her combined experiences made taking a chance on the symptoms — and chalking them up to something she ate, as she says people are quick to do — wasn’t an option.
“If I wasn’t around colon cancer, I never would’ve thought about,” Alyssa says. “I wouldn’t have known what a colonoscopy was.”
Alyssa and her mom, Judy, a stage III colorectal cancer survivor
Fortunately, she didn’t have to go far to find a colonoscopy provider. She told her doctor, who is also her boss, about the symptoms. Insurance agreed to cover the procedure without hassle, and soon she was a patient in her own workplace.
“It’s over before you realize it,” Alyssa says. “The hardest part is honestly the prep, but then you get there, they put the IV in, and then, bam, you wake up.”
When Alyssa woke up, the doctor shocked her with news that he had found what was determined to be a precancerous polyp. Polyps are abnormal tissue growths that sometimes develop into cancer.
“When he first told me, I was so scared to think about if I wouldn’t have gotten this done,” Alyssa says. “If I would’ve waited until I was due for a colonoscopy, I would’ve had cancer.”
Now Alyssa uses her experience to encourage leery patients — especially men, who frequently call to cancel, she says — to go through with their screening.
“Talking to these people every day and being able to give them a personal experience opens up their eyes,” Alyssa says. “I barely had symptoms and I had a precancerous polyp.” (Alyssa notes that the symptoms were likely unrelated to the polyp.)
Plus, the colonoscopy reviews from patients have been great.
“Honestly, I’ve never heard one person say it was bad, ever,” Alyssa says. “It’s the easiest thing.”
Due to the polyps found during her colonoscopy, Alyssa will receive a follow-up procedure every three years.
“I just want to stay a step ahead,” she says.
A third of eligible adults are not getting screened for colorectal cancer, and the problem could get worse due to COVID-19. To learn more about getting screened, visit getscreened.org, or take our colorectal cancer screening quiz to find out which screening method may be right for you and get connected to resources.
Boston Scientific is partnering with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in 2020 to raise awareness of colorectal cancer screenings and help people get screened. Allies who want to learn more about screening and screening support can connect with our Patient and Family Support Navigators today.