Biloxi woman saved by screening urges others to get checked for colorectal cancer

One Biloxi woman said without her colonoscopy, her cancer would be advanced and her heart blockage may have never been discovered. Both were treatable.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:55 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:46 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s colorectal cancer awareness month. One Biloxi woman said without her colonoscopy, her cancer would be advanced and her heart blockage may have never been discovered. Both were treatable thanks to early detection.

The mother is now urging others to get tested before it’s too late.

“My first thought was her,” Lesley Isaacs said as she points to her daughter. “She’s in the 8th grade. She had just turned 14 years old. I just couldn’t believe it was happening. It was surreal because I felt very healthy.”

Isaacs has no family history of colorectal cancer. Experiencing no symptoms, she didn’t think she needed a colonoscopy. Doctors sent her an at-home screening for the cancer during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It came back negative so I thought no more about it,” Isaacs said.

That is until she went back to her doctor.

“Dr. McNeese said ‘well, I think while I have you asleep, I’m going to go ahead and do a colonoscopy,’” she said. “I said ‘well, you don’t need to. I don’t have a history on either side of my family and I did the box and it was fine.’ I didn’t want the colonoscopy, obviously.”

Isaacs said her insurance denied paying for the procedure because she just received the box tests. Her doctors appealed that decision and moved forward with testing.

“He did it,” Isaacs said. “Thank God he did. I had a polyp, which had turned cancerous. I had no signs or symptoms. Thank God he did it. I would have waited the three to five years that they recommended. Who knows what it would have done by then.”

Isaacs said she received top-of-the-line surgery and care at Merit Health all thanks to one state-of-the-art machine.

“This was actually the first hospital on the Coast to get the latest generation,” Dr. Joshua Tyler with Merit Health Biloxi said. “So the robot actually has wrists so you can be much more precise. The camera is much better.”

The disease is treatable, but doctors say fear usually stands in the way of testing.

“We see with patients, a lot of times they are embarrassed,” Dr. Tyler said. “They think it’s embarrassing to have the colonoscopy done, but it is far easier to do that than go through surgery, chemo and potentially radiation. Get screened.”

For Isaacs, she’s grateful for the screening and continues to urge other patients to see a doctor.

“If you catch it early, very easily gotten rid of,” Isaacs said.

Regular screening starting at ages 45, 40 for African Americans, is key to preventing colorectal cancer. If you do have a family history, you should start even earlier than that.

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