Heather Rikala – Cancer Care

With a family history of colon cancer, Heather Rikala got tested early with a colonoscopy at age 31. Having family members with colon cancer puts an individual at higher risk for developing colon cancer. Most colon cancers occur independently, but an estimated 5 to 10 percent of colon cancers are a direct result of heredity. Talk to your healthcare provider about you risk factors and when to get screened for colon cancer.

“My maternal grandfather was diagnosed with colorectal cancer when he was 52. He went through chemotherapy, then surgery. He has been cancer-free for about 20 years. Recently, my mom was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 51. She is undergoing treatment and will then have two procedures to remove a cancerous tumor and affected lymph nodes.

Due to our family history of colorectal cancer, my mother’s surgeon suggested my sister and I immediately have colonoscopies to check for polyps. We have both had our colonoscopies completed with no polyps. Going forward, we will both need to have a colonoscopy screening every five years; if noncancerous polyps are found, this would then increase to every three years.

I was a little embarrassed thinking about having this procedure done, but when I stepped back and thought about the reason I was doing it, the embarrassment disappeared. I told myself: ‘This is for my own good, a routine screening procedure that millions of people go through all of the time. It is to make sure I am healthy and can live a long life, watch my kids grow and enjoy life with my family and friends.’ I talked to my mom about the colonoscopy as she had just gone through it, my in-laws, a coworker and my physician. They all assured me that the procedure itself was a piece of cake, and they were right

For my colonoscopy at Riverwood, I had wonderful nurses during the pre-op and post-op process. The surgeon came to see me before the procedure and explained that I would be sedated once I got into the operating room, he would do the colonoscopy, taking about 10 minutes (longer if he needed to remove any polyps), I would then be brought back to post-op and he would talk to me after I was awake, and that’s exactly how it went.

Following my colonoscopy, I was relieved and glad I did it. I feel good knowing I’m doing everything I can to keep myself healthy.

I would encourage others to get their recommended colon cancer screenings on time and not to wait. We are unable to control everything that happens to us in life, so a colonoscopy screening is one positive thing we can do to stay as healthy as possible.”


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