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Colon Cancer/Anemia

Nora Bentley

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For the past 10 years I have had episodes of extreme anemia. The first occurrence was after a combination gastric bypass/hysterectomy surgery, when I started bleeding rectally and my blood count dropped to below 6. Through quite a few blood transfusions they were able to get me back up to just under 12, which, while still anemic, they said was so much better than it was that they would just monitor it. The second incident occurred out of the blue in 1996 with no outward signs that I was having a problem other than I could no longer walk up stairs without being so winded I had to sit down for several minutes, take a few more steps, regain my breath and try again. Plus, my feet swelled so bad I thought they would pop, and I was having chest pains. The doctors did a CBC and again found that my count was 5. They immediately gave me two points of blood and sent me home. It seemed to help and I did not experience any problems, other than staying "borderline tired" all the time until November 1998. I got up one morning, went to the bathroom and passed a tremendous amount of blood rectally. I did not recognize the seriousness of the situation and drove myself to work. Once I got there I experienced severe chills and more passing of blood so I drove myself to my physician (due to HMO requirements, my MD was 45 miles away). The nurse practitioner examined me and took my history and told me that I could ride in an ambulance or get a family member, but I was going to a hospital (54 miles away, again due to HMO requirements) to be evaluated and to be transfused. My sister-in-law drove me, and they did every test in the world (again -- they did the colonoscopy, endoscopy, small-bowel follow-through, and a slew of other tests I cannot remember or pronounce!). My blood count was down to 8 at this time. I received 5 pints of blood. After 4 days in the hospital they sent me home (again, my count was up to 11 -- still anemic, but so much better the doctors were happy to send me home). I have stayed so tired since this last episode that my quality of life has significally declined. I went to the hematologist who treated me in 1996 (and they did do a bone marrow test also to rule out leukemia). She looked at my blood count (11.2) and said that it was not enough to be concerned about, but would do a rectal exam if I really wanted it. While I hate the exams, I was hoping that it would show something at least so I told her to do it. Lo and behold, surprise, surpise (the doctor didn't know what to make of it), the test showed blood in my stool. However, since I was only border-line anemic, she changed my iron medication and said to come back in 5 months (this month). I read an article this week that talked about people who were at risk for colon cancer and how often they should be tested for it. My father had lung cancer, then colon cancer, then liver cancer, which eventually killed him. I assume this puts me at risk. I am 46 years old. One of the things the article stated was to be sure to have stool samples done to test for blood in the urine. Is my math bad, or does this 2+2=4? In other words, One of the ways to possibly suspect colon cancer is to detect blood in the stool? There is such a large amount of cancer in my family that this bit of news has me really scared. I am having surgery in June to have a bone spur scraped from my neck that is pressing on a nerve and making my arm go numb. How should I go about bringing this possibility up with the doctor, and should I do so at all? My appointment is 5/11, so any feed back would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for rambling; I tend to do that when I'm worried. Nora; Kentucky


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