August 25, 2020

Routine colonoscopy during COVID-19 saves Madison woman's life

Madison, Wis. — Lisa Cayer turned 50 in 2020 and knew it was time to be screened for colon cancer. A colonoscopy is never on anyone's birthday wish list, but it is proven to detect cancer at an early stage and save lives, so Cayer knew it needed to be done.

Still, the Madison resident almost put it off because of COVID-19, as many have. Plus, she was healthy with no symptoms or family history of colon cancer. 

"I thought, why not wait until next year when the pandemic is over? I'll be 51 instead of 50. How much difference can one year make?" said Cayer.

It turned out to be a lifesaving decision.

Doctors at UW Health's Digestive Health Center found polyps during her screening on July 10. Four days later she received the shocking colon cancer diagnosis. On July 27, Cayer had surgery at University Hospital to remove the cancerous polyps. During the surgery, doctors discovered additional cancerous tissue which they also removed. She will likely undergo chemotherapy at the UW Carbone Cancer Center as part of her treatment.

"Of course, no one wants cancer, but I feel fortunate. Because of this screening and the incredible doctors at UW Health, I am one step ahead of it," said Cayer. "I would urge anyone to schedule their routine screening now, don't postpone it. It could save your life. It saved mine." 

As part of its initial pandemic response, UW Health postponed many nonessential procedures to prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients. This included deferring more than 2,500 non-urgent colonoscopies and upper endoscopies at the Digestive Health Center. Those procedures and others are being scheduled and rescheduled now and UW Health's Digestive Health Center physicians urge all members of the community who deferred or had colonoscopies postponed, to call their care provider to reschedule them.