Screening Leads to Early Cancer Diagnosis and Early Cure

By Katrina Dupins

“It was time anyway because I was 50,” Stewart said. “My doctor helped me get set up and I went in for the procedure Dec. 27.”

The physician performing the colonoscopy saw a growth on the imaging that concerned him. Stewart made an appointment with Conan Mustain, M.D., a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon and assistant professor in the UAMS Department of Surgery. Mustain confirmed it was cancer.

Carrie Stewart teaching students in class.

Carrie Stewart teaching students in class.

After a full diagnostic examination, Mustain decided Stewart was a good candidate to have the affected portion of her large intestine removed and the remaining portions put back together. The minimally invasive approach included a few small incisions around her abdomen. Then using a laparoscope, or tiny camera, Mustain removed the part of her intestine affected by the tumor. Mustain says doing the procedure this way leads to less pain, lower narcotic use and a faster return to normal bowel function after surgery.

“I was never nervous about the surgery,” Stewart said. “I knew Dr. Mustain was very skilled and considered an expert. I felt I was in good hands.”

Surgery for colorectal cancer at UAMS is performed by board-certified colorectal surgeons, like Mustain and his partners. Cancer cases are discussed weekly by a multi-disciplinary team that includes colorectal surgeons, surgical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. The health care professionals make sure they have the optimum plan mapped out for each individual.

Board-certified colon and rectal surgeon Conan Mustain, M.D.

Board-certified colon and rectal surgeon Conan Mustain, M.D.

“Like anything, the more you do of one thing, the better you become,” Mustain said. “That’s one reason why UAMS has received the U.S. News and World Report’s highest possible rating for surgical care in colon cancer.”

“I had the surgery on Friday and went home Sunday morning. I took six weeks off work and was soon back to my normal routine,” Stewart said. “I felt great. Luckily the cancer was caught early enough and had not spread.”

Stewart did not have to have additional treatment following her surgery and is now in surveillance mode.

The American Cancer Society recommends colonoscopy screenings begin at age 45 for patients who have no symptoms and no family history of the disease.

But, Mustain says, you’re never too young to have a colonoscopy if you’re having symptoms. Mustain says anyone with unexplained abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, bleeding or change in their bowel habits should see a doctor and likely be checked with a colonoscopy.