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One Man's Life-Saving Prescription


Ralph Cline remembers 2012 as a significant year. It was the year that one of his daughters was married. It was the year his first grandchild was born. It was the year he lost his father to cancer. And, it was a year that seemed to fly past as he dealt with his responsibilities at work as a pharmacist. With so much happening, Ralph continued to put off getting his colonoscopy. Being 54 at the time, Ralph was four years beyond the recommended age to get screened for colorectal cancer, so he thought, “What difference would a few more months make?”

Current screening guidelines strongly suggest that all men and women should have regular screening for colorectal cancer from the age of 50 until the age of 75. Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, begins either in the colon or rectum. It’s the third most common cause of cancer death among men and women in the U.S. However, routine screening among symptom-free individuals can lower the risk for developing colon cancer. Early detection is the key to addressing cancer when it is highly treatable.

“My primary care physician asked at my yearly physical to have a colonoscopy, and I agreed it was time to have my first one,” said Ralph. “I felt putting the colonoscopy off for a few years would not make a difference since I had no issues.”

In April 2013, Ralph finally made a colonoscopy appointment. After the procedure was over, Ralph waited to hear the results. When the doctor stepped into the exam room, he told Ralph that he had found four lesions, three of which he was able to remove. However, a biopsy on the larger lesion showed precancerous cells, meaning it could eventually turn into cancer and would need surgery to remove it.

That May, Ralph underwent a Laparoscopic Colectomy to remove the polyp and roughly two feet of his intestines, an aggressive approach taken to avoid the need for a second surgery. Following the surgery, a second biopsy of the polyp revealed cancerous cells, and Ralph was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

In late June, Ralph started a six-month chemotherapy process at CaroMont Cancer Center. Ralph continued to work through his chemo treatments, only missing work on the day of his infusion. He doesn’t recall experiencing any residual effect from the chemo, which he attributes to staying hydrated and eating small meals throughout the day to avoid nausea. With his pharmacy background, he says he knew what to expect from a technical perspective, though people respond differently to treatment. In December, Ralph successfully completed his cancer therapy.

“I feel great,” said Ralph. “I felt great before, but I found out that feeling great does not always reveal what may be happening inside your body.”

Individuals who are at higher risk for the disease, such as those with a family history of colorectal cancer, should be screened from the age of 40 or at 10 years before the age their family member was at diagnosis, whichever is earlier. So, Ralph’s daughter decided to get screened, too, and both of Ralph’s brothers decided to have a colonoscopy as an added precaution.

“I’m now a big advocate for early screening,” said Ralph. “Go get your colonoscopy done. If you can catch it before it spreads, it makes a big difference.”

If you are 50 years of age or older, it’s time to get screened. Talk to your primary care doctor today to schedule your colonoscopy at one of CaroMont’s convenient endoscopy locations in Gastonia or Belmont.