Cedar Rapids woman's first colonoscopy saved her life

After doctors found a large precancerous polyp, they removed one-third of her colon

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Doctors recommend getting a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer every 10 years, starting at the age of 50.

Kim Bro, of Cedar Rapids, turned 50 in December so she made an appointment to have a colonoscopy on Feb. 1. “I’m a nurse so I know the importance of early detection screenings,” Bro says.

What she couldn’t know is how crucial it was that she not procrastinate or put it off. Her first colonoscopy more than likely saved her life.

“I went in thinking, ‘It will be fine, and I’ll go back in another 10 years, no problem.’ Well, they found a very large polyp; it was five to six centimeters,” Bro says. “They tried removing it all, but they couldn’t because it was already attached to the colon wall. It had been there, Dr. Nielsen said, probably two to three years already.”

Bro was shocked to find out she would soon have to have surgery to remove one-third of her colon.

“I was totally surprised.”

Although the polyp had not yet turned into cancer, it had fingerlike projections which can become cancerous. “That’s how it spreads to your other organs. It had those projections, but it had not moved beyond my colon wall.”

“I was really close to this being cancer, so I was just very lucky that I decided to go when I went. It was really close, too close. I caught it just in time before it turned into cancer.”

Bro had laparoscopic surgery less than two weeks later, on Feb. 13. “All of the pathology has come back, and there are no cancer cells whatsoever, which I’m very thankful for. If I had waited until the age of 51, it would have been a totally different outcome.”

Bro feels very fortunate that she doesn’t need to have chemo or radiation and can pretty much eat the same diet and enjoy the same activities she did before her surgery.

Bro doesn’t have a family history of colon cancer, but her family had been touched by the disease. Her father-in-law survived a bout of colon cancer several years ago, causing Bro’s husband, John, to get regular screenings.

In the same way, Bro didn’t have any risk factors for colon cancer.

“I don’t smoke. I’m active,” she says. “I belong to Farrell’s. I work out six days a week. I actually did kickboxing the morning of the colonoscopy,” she jokes.

An assistant professor of nursing at Mount Mercy University, Bro also works part-time at St. Luke’s Heart Center. Years ago, she actually helped administer colonoscopies when she worked in an endoscopy unit, giving her an insider’s perspective on the procedure.

“I know from being a nurse that some people are polyp makers,” she says. Some people will have a handful of polyps every time they’re screened. “Some people don’t ever get polyps.”

She won’t know if she’s prone to more polyps until she goes back for her next colonoscopy in three years. “Three years to the day,” she says.

Thinking of her adult children, Bro has already told son Tyler, 22, and daughter, Carly, 19, both students at Iowa State University, that she’ll personally schedule their first colonoscopies when they each turn 40.

Bro hopes her story will encourage others to be screened. At least two of her nursing students have mentioned that their mothers who are in their early 50s hadn’t gone in for a colonoscopy yet. “But now, because of my story, they’re going to go.”

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