"I spread the word wherever I go about being vigilant and proactive about colon cancer."
As an experienced pediatric nurse, Katy Duggan prided herself on the observational skills, vigilance and proactivity that had kept her patients safe. Despite these skills, Duggan missed the most important diagnosis of her life: her own colon cancer.
When she was diagnosed, she was stunned that she had missed the signs and symptoms. She chalked the fatigue up to long hours at work and figured the traces of blood in her stool were due to hemorrhoids. It wasn't until a bout of severe constipation led to emergency surgery that her doctors discovered a large, cancerous tumor in her sigmoid colon.
Today, after successful surgery and chemotherapy, Duggan remains cancer-free and is back at work.
She's also helping researchers better understand the disease by participating in Fred Hutch's CORE (Colorectal Research in Epidemiology) Family Studies, which seek to find out why people develop colon cancer. These studies depend on colon-cancer survivors like Duggan, their relatives, as well as individuals who have not had colorectal cancer to help investigate factors such as lifestyle, environment, ethnic background and genetics that may influence colon-cancer risk.
As a CORE participant Duggan took a telephone survey about her health background and lifestyle, provided blood and saliva samples and granted permission for the study investigators to review samples of her tumor tissue that were removed during surgery. She also will complete a short written survey every couple of years to make sure her medical history and contact information are current.
Through the involvement of people like Duggan, researchers hope to improve methods of prevention, detection and treatment of the disease, the second deadliest cancer in the United States in both men and women.
"In addition to supporting cancer research by participating in the CORE studies," said Duggan, "I spread the word wherever I go about being vigilant and proactive about colon cancer."
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