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Saving Lives from a Secret Sickness

A routine colonoscopy saved 53-year-old Melissa Teigen’s life

A local self-employed interior designer who often works with her husband’s construction company, Melissa was in good health when her insurance company informed her she was past due for her colonoscopy.

“I was 53 and had never gone in for a colonoscopy,” Melissa said. “I have been in remission from brain cancer for 15 years, so I was especially careful about my health and paid attention to any little thing that could be wrong. I thought I was completely healthy.”

At her colonoscopy screening, Melissa found out she had polyps, or potentially cancerous masses, in her colon. They were removed and sent off for biopsy. “We got the call on Christmas Eve 2014 that it was cancer,” Melissa said.


Care that matters

Melissa was referred to Shalini Kanneganti, MD, FACS, board-certified, fellowship trained colon and rectal cancer surgeon with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, to find out her next steps for care.

“If there was a picture in the dictionary that went along with the definition of compassion, it would be Dr. Kanneganti,” Melissa said. “The first appointment, I was a weepy mess — I told her my daughter Mackenzie was graduating from college in the spring, and my older daughter Samantha had just gotten engaged. She held my hand and told me, ‘We’ll get through this.’”

Surgery was the best option for removing all of her cancer.

“Melissa needed the right side of her colon removed, a procedure called a hemicolectomy,” Dr. Kanneganti said. “She had laparoscopic surgery that required smaller incisions, rather than one large incision. This meant Melissa had reduced pain, needed less medication and was able to return to normal life quickly. We were pleased to offer her this option while she was dealing with the emotional journey of cancer.”

Melissa had her procedure in January.

Return to recovery

“Dr. Kanneganti was right — we did get through it,” Melissa said. “I followed all my instructions throughout my surgical recovery, and I made some lifestyle changes afterward. I don’t eat meat anymore, and I walk and work out more often. We’re busy planning Samantha’s wedding, and we had a great time celebrating Mackenzie’s graduation in the spring.” Melissa credits her screening colonoscopy for allowing her to continue her life without dealing with late-stage colon cancer.

“If you’re age 50, get a colonoscopy,” Melissa said. “Don’t wait until you have symptoms.”

Learn about colorectal cancer screening