Taking the first step in beating back cancer

Judy Regalado was recovering from colon cancer when her husband Joe started feeling bad.

“I was helping a Little League team and I would get really tired, and also I started getting diarrhea often,” Joe Regalado Jr. said.

Judy knew how serious this could be. But Joe didn’t want to go to the doctor. He put it off until Judy forced his hand by picking up the phone herself and putting it in his hand.

“I dialed and said, ‘Well then, you hang up on them, or you make the appointment.’”

While it is recommended that both men and women get colonoscopies at age 50 (or sooner, depending on their risk factors), Dr. Sukeshi Patel said far fewer men than women actually do it — and often when they do, it’s because their wives send them in.

“Nobody really wants to talk about getting a colonoscopy because it’s a procedure that involves going in through the rectum and checking your stool,” said Dr. Patel, an oncologist with University Hospital and an assistant professor with the UT Health Science Center.

But getting the colonoscopy at the recommended time can actually help prevent cancer. Doctors can remove small polyps before they become cancerous, and can start treating more serious cancers before it’s too late.

With the phone already in his hand, Joe made the appointment. He went through with it and then wondered what all the fuss was about.

“In all honesty, there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s more mental,” he said. “They put you to sleep, you don’t feel anything.”

And when the results came back, Joe learned that he had a grapefruit-sized tumor that needed surgery right away.

That was almost three years ago. Joe Regalado is two years cancer-free, and doctors are keeping a close eye on him.

Along with being over 50, risk factors include a family history of the disease, obesity, inactivity, a diet high in red and processed meats, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, diabetes, and being African-American or Jewish of Eastern European descent.

Estimate your personal risk of colon or rectal cancer at checkmyhealthsa.com and take the results to your primary care physician, or call 210-358-3045.

 This story first appeared on KENS-TV as part of the Real Men Wear Gowns campaign, in partnership with University Health System.

Photo by Mark Greenberg Photography