Tysharda Thomas was plagued with stomach problems last spring and changed her diet to stave off bouts of nausea and constipation. She grew concerned about blood in the stool and sharp pains in her belly.
“When the pains would come, I would put my head on my desk and just wait for them to pass,” said Thomas, 38. “They would eventually go away and I’d get right back to work.”
It was Stage II colon cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is the third most common cancer, excluding skin cancers. This year, more than 140,000 people will be diagnosed. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and UR Medicine physicians urge people to get screened at 50, or earlier if they are at elevated risk. Screening tests for colorectal cancers include fecal occult blood test, stool DNA test, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Thomas is sharing her personal story to encourage people to get screened because early detection can save lives.
UR Medicine colorectal surgeon Jenny Speranza, M.D., removed the cancerous mass and Thomas was able to quickly resume her busy real estate career. She and her husband, Christopher, operate New 2 U Homes in Rochester.
“She’s not the stereotypical person to get colon cancer,” Speranza said, because Thomas is in her late 30s, more than a decade younger than the recommended age to begin screenings. “But it really underscores the fact that cancers and diseases can be diagnosed at any age and we have to be vigilant and pay attention to our bodies.”
Thomas will require continued monitoring and routine screenings but has an excellent prognosis because the cancer was caught early. .
“It was a serious roller coaster ride for sure,” Thomas said. “It all happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to go through all the emotions. We found the cancer one day, had surgery the next week and found out I was cancer free the following week.”
“But it’s behind us and we’re looking forward positively,” Thomas said.
The Cancer Services Program of Monroe County, a part of UR Medicine’s Center for Community Health, offers free colon, breast and cervical cancer screenings for people who are uninsured or underinsured. Call (585) 224-3070.
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