My Dad called this morning. He is a 79 year old male, in what we thought was extremely good health. He is very active, and helps on my bother's farm. As a young man, Dad smoked heavily. About 25 years ago, he quit cold turkey and hasn't had tobacco in any form since.
During a routine examination, the doctor removed three polyps from his colon. One of these polyps was discovered to be cancerous. He is scheduled to go back to his doctor this thursday (one week) for additional tests, and in particular, some blood work.
Obviously I have more questions than answers at this point. One question: Does the fact that cancer was discovered in only one of the three polyps a good sign, and perhaps an indication that the cancer was discovered early? Are there particular questions I should be asking? What's the best way for me to offer support?
I live a thousand miles away from Dad. My first impulse is to hop on a plane to be with him; my wife suggests that we should wait for more information.
Hi Doug, I know what it's like to get that news. You're kind of in shock and then your mind starts into overdrive with all the possibilitie outcomes.
Truthfully, this is one of the toughest points for us family members because all we can really do right now is wait for the "staging" results. They normally do this at the time of the biopsy and someone should try to get a copy of the pathology reports if at all possible.
When found early colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to beat - in an early stage hopefully before there is too much spread...
So that's really what would help you know at what point you want to get a visit in... Is your Mom still alive and with him? If so she should be sure that she is listed as his Healthcare Representative and able to discuss his medical issues with the doctor - or maybe another sibling who lives near him?
Keep in close touch with him - just simple phone calls to say hello even. He will welcome the opportunity to be close to you.
Thanks for the feedback. I AM in shock. My father has always been healthy, and he will definitely NOT make a good patient. My mother passed away about seven years ago, but my Dad lives next door to my brother and his family so he isn't alone.
My brother told me that the biopsy of the polyp was 'stage one'.
In my ignorance, I just argued with my brother that an individual polyp can't be given a 'stage', but that the different stages had to do with how far the cancer had progressed. It would now appear that I'm wrong.
Does the diagnosis of a single cancerous polyp always result in a treatment such as radiation, chemo, or surgury? Also, does the fact that the cancer was found in only one of the three polyps removed indicate that the cancer was caught early?
Doug Our family has found waiting for information the toughest part of a cancer Dagnosis. I can't help you with technical questions you've raised, but from what I've read Stage 1 has profoundly good response to treatment.
The eagerness for answers sometimes precedes knowing what questions to ask. There is a lot of good information on the net as well as right here, that could help you wait out the lag between your anxiety and information you Dad gets. Certainly I googled my way into many informative sites. Your Dad is a little older than me, by about 8 years and sounds independant too. So am I and would be saddened if my daughter failed to do her own business, just to sit with me when I'm fine and there is little she can do to change things or speed them up. When I need her assistance, no fear I shall ask for it.
when you finally know what you are dealing with your anxiety will be lowered, but it takes time to obtain the information.
I'm not sure what your relationship is like with your brother, but I can assure you my daughter gleaned better information than I did. He is there, and probably talking with the doctors and your Dad. I'm sure what he learns, you will learn also.
Stage 1!! That is definitely celebration information!!
When they did the colonoscopy they would have located all the polyps they could possibly find. It is very possible that one polyp could have been cancerous while the other two were normal or maybe only had dysplasia (a precancerous indication on a cellular level).
They will do their additional tests and then decide on a course of treatment - (That's the WAITING part of it that we all hate!).
Your Dad will defininitely need to have yearly colonoscopies from here on out. If they can catch the polyps early he won't have to hear the "C" word again from his colon!
You have had a big scare - and I hope you know that Stage 1 is the next best thing you could hear next to cancer-free. Congrats!
Oh, and you know that this means YOU need to schedule a Colonoscopy for YOURSELF now, don't you??
I was diagnosed at Stage 1, which means the cancerous polyp did not invade the colon or rectal wall. They will probably suggest that he have internal &/or external radiation, to make sure there aren't any "rogue" cancer cells. Your father's cancer has been caught at a very early stage. Because of my diagnosis, in my early 30s, the first thing the doctors advised was that all my siblings should be have precautionary colonoscopies, since colorectal cancer has a strong genetic component. It's a good thing, because my younger brother had precancerous polyps. All that said, I went through my mom being diagnosed with cancer, so, I empathize with the shock you've felt. My mom was never sick too. All the best.
Please reread my post. I had 3 polyps, one was cancerous and the others had mild dysplasia or none. I was Stage 1, like your father, and I was treated at one of the top hospitals, in the U.S. I was advised to have internal and external radiation, as a precautionary measure, to kill off any rogue cancer cells. I also have to have regular testing, for the rest of my life.
It is my understanding that most doctors will not treat stage I w/ chemo/radiation. Given your father's age this is not likely a genetic predisposition as I would understand it. It is likely that he will be followed very closely and should definately undergo annual colonoscopies at this point. We were told that most cancerous polyps take years to grow. (My father was diagnosed stage III, w/ one primary tumor and 6 of 11 lymph nodes involved..his oncologist said it had probably been growing for 8-10 years) so EARLY intervention and follow up is key. Most colorectal cancers are slow growing. Someone please correct me if I am mistaken.
It is also my understanding that if a family member is diagnosed at an early age there is more likelyhood of genetic factors being involved. At your fathers age of diagnosis and the stage it is likely that you will be screened at normal recommended intervals ie colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and every 3-5 years beyond that point w/ a fecal occult test every year. If you are at this age and have not been screened make sure you are! My dad was 65 ..same doctor for 12 years and no screenings done or recommended!
Stage I is fantastic news. Follow up w/ the pathalogy report and ask all of your questions to the specialist.
Often Stage 1 is followed with radiation but no chemo. It can depend how close the cancer was, down the stem of the polyp, towards the colorectal wall. Like I said, I went to one of the best hospitals and radiation was advised. That may have been in part to my age, which was barely 30. Nonetheless, please ask about rogue cancer cells. Even though Stage 1 is an early stage, there are even classifications within Stage 1, such as Stage 1a, 1b and 1c, primarily meaning degree of cancer, down the polyp, before it began to invade the wall. Also, even if colorectal cancer hits a family member, later in life, I was advised that all immediate adult family members, meaning siblings and parents and grandparents, even those in their 20s, should have precautionary colonosocpies. My grandfather had colon cancer, in his 70s, but I had cancerous polyps, by 30, and my brother had precancerous polyps, in his late 20s.