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CRC Surgeons in the News

Colon & Rectal Clinic Surgeons and Patients Share Stories of Colorectal Cancer Screening and Survival


Dr. Bidhan DasDr. Scott T. McKnight

CRC Houston is proud to announce two new partners, Dr. Bidhan Das and Dr. Scott T. McKnight.

Learn more about them in the video features below.






Teacher up to challenge of beating cancer
Publication Date: 4/10/2010 11:41:00 AM
Teacher beats up cancer

On March 11, 2009, Kim Zarowsky, a Spring resident and physical education teacher at Kaiser Elementary, found blood in her stool and became concerned. She made an appointment with Dr. Lisa Chen at the Colon and Rectal Clinic for April 1. Zarowsky had a colonoscopy and the doctor discovered a mass the size of a fifty cent piece.

>> Full Story

“It was five days of absolute horror. I had to go through a chest and CT scan to see if it had spread. We were going through a lot of prayers,” Zarowsky said.

After a biopsy, Zarowsky’s mass was diagnosed as stage I, grade C cancer. Surgery removed 8 inches of her colon and 16 lymph nodes on May 5, 2009.

Zarowsky, who has no family history of cancer, had nausea and diarrhea prior to the bleeding, but dismissed them as a possible stomach virus.

“This was a complete shock. This was cancer. God guided me through this process. Every symptom could’ve been explained,” Zarowsky said.

She credits Chen with saving her life.

Chen said colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death behind lung cancer and most preventable by having a colonoscopy.

“At 41 years old, Kim was very young for this,” Chen said. “She came in within two weeks of the bleeding. Because we caught it so early there wasn’t any chemotherapy or radiation. She’s 90 percent cured. We’re keeping an eye on her. She’s done really well. Sometimes people ignore the symptoms for a long time.”

A study by the American Cancer Society found 90 percent of colon cancer patients with early detection were included in the five-year survival group compared to less than 50 percent of those whose cancer was found at a later stage.

The American Cancer Society recommends people get their first screening colonoscopy for the disease at age 50, earlier if there are additional risk factors like a family history of colon cancer, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption and high-fat diet.

Bruce Zarowsky, professor and chair of the kinesiology department at Lone Star College-Tomball, said his wife was “very determined” to see the cancer gone.

“In Kim’s case, this was a wake up call that life is precious,” Bruce said. “It was just a miracle that things happened the way they did. She’s a fighter and has always been. It’s a very redeeming and wonderful quality. I admire her. I share her story every semester with my students.”

Zarowsky, a Jackson, Miss. native, was raised in Humble, with mother and stepfather, Daisy and Fred Taylor as the oldest of three children.

She received her bachelor’s degree in 1995 from the University of Houston and began her 14-year teaching career in Kingwood at Green Tree Elementary.

In 1999, Zarowsky moved to Kaiser Elementary in Klein ISD and pursued her master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Sam Houston State University.

She began a new phase in her career in 2001 after graduating from Sam Houston State University as assistant principal at Heritage Elementary in Spring ISD.

Zarowsky missed being hands-on with her pupils and returned to Kaiser Elementary to teach physical education in 2006.

“I wanted to have fun with the kids. There are so many good things in my life. I’m very blessed to be here and tell my story. I know my faith has seen me through this,” Zarowsky said.

The most important lesson she learned is following your instincts.

“If something looks bad, you have to go to the doctor,” Zarowsky said. Knowledge is power. You have to take care of yourself because people love you.”

In her free time, Zarowsky enjoys spending time outdoors with husband, Bruce Zarowsky and their daughter, Kyleigh.

by Valerie Sweeten

Doctor: Early screenings can prevent common cancer
Publication Date:3/11/2009 8:18:00 AM

George Franklin, a former NFL running back for the Atlanta Falcons, is a long-haul truck driver living in northwest Houston. Though doctors encourage people to begin getting colonoscopy screenings at age 50, Franklin chose not to do so.

>> Full Story

"You know, I had that macho way of thinking — I´m not going to the doctor," Franklin said.

It wasn´t until last year, at age 54, that Franklin noticed blood in his stool.

"I thought it might have been from an ulcer, eating spicy food or taking too much ibuprofen," he said.

Franklin told his wife and went to see his doctor. Due to back pain he had been experiencing, Franklin was given a full physical.

It turns out Franklin had developed polyps, small growths in the colon that are precursors to colon cancer, and since it was caught early, Colon & Rectal Clinic of Houston surgeon Mark Pidala, M.D. was able to remove them.

Colon cancer occurs in the large intestine (colon and rectum), and according to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second-leading cancer-related death among men and women.

"Typically, it´s a disease affecting people over 50; only 10 percent of people are diagnosed younger than 50," Pidala said. "Colon cancer is preventable, which is why we try to target patients and screen them with colonoscopies once they turn 50."

Pidala said some risk factors for developing colon cancer are age, family history and race.

"Data suggests that African-Americans have a higher incidence of colon cancer than Caucasians and when they get diagnosed, it´s often at a later stage," Pidala said. "African-Americans are at a higher risk and should definitely be screened."

Pidala said people with colon cancer often have no symptoms, but symptoms that may occur are bleeding, change in bowel habits, abdominal cramping and constipation.

"Many times, people will attribute bleeding to hemorrhoids, but it´s important to get checked. Any type of bleeding should be evaluated by a physician."

The screening method for colon cancer used is a colonoscopy, a procedure where a camera instrument is used to guide doctors through the colon to look for polyps. The polyps can be removed (by burning) during a colonoscopy as well.

Pidala said colon cancer is curable, with more than 90 percent cure rate when caught in its early stages.

"A patient is required to take a laxative the day before and they are sedated for the procedure," Pidala said. "The procedure is quick (about 20 to 30 minutes), painless and the patient can go home the same day. There´s really not a good excuse not to get one."

For Franklin, he admitted the lifestyle of a trucker eventually caught up with him. Now, he´s the biggest cheerleader for getting screenings.

"I tell all my co-drivers out here to get screened at 47," he said jokingly. "Many are out of shape, overweight, eating junk food and have sleep apnea. It´s bound to catch up with you eventually. We don´t realize that we´re getting older. I don´t feel like I´m 54. It sneaks up on you."

by Valerie Jones- HCN - The Sun/Champions

7 Tactics to Save Your Life
Publication Date:2/1/2009 10:16:00 AM

Colon & Rectal Clinic recommends six tactics to help lower your risk for colon cancer...

>> Full Story

1. Maintain a healthy weight.
2. Limit your intake of red meat, particularly fatty or processed varieties.
3. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and other plant foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals.
4. Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid. Long-term use may decrease colon cancer risk by 75%. Foods rich in folate, such as oranges and leafy green vegetables, also offer protection.
5. Exercise regularly.
6. Get adequate calcium from foods or a supplement.

The Seventh and Most Critical Tactic

Colon cancer may cause symptoms, including blood in or on the stool, recurrent stomach pain or cramping, narrow, ribbon-like stools, and unexplained weight loss.

"Unfortunately, colon cancer often produces no symptoms," says Omar Madriz, M.D., who practices in the Colon & Rectal Clinic's Memorial City and Katy locations. "That's why experts recommend regular screenings for people at age 50 and older. Those with a personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps and anyone with inflammatory bowel disease should be screened earlier."

One mom, leading by example
Publication Date:1/31/2009 4:59:00 PM

One mom, leading by example

Cancer survivor Beverly Ryan and her two children, Glynn and Cyndi, are living proof that colon cancer is preventable if you have a screening colonoscopy. Ryan's colonoscopy prompted her two children to be screened - maybe saving all three.

>> Full Story

In 2003, Ryan opted to have a non-invasive virtual colonoscopy that uses imagery reconstructed from CT scans or an MRI. All was clear. However, in August 2006, during a routine check-up that included a minimally invasive colonoscopy, 10 polyps were found. A second traditional colonoscopy and second biopsy confirmed the polyps were cancerous, requiring surgery to remove a small portion of Ryan's colon.

"The day Dr. Mark Pidala told me I would need surgery; my first response was that it was a busy time at work to take time off," Ryan recalls. "Now I know that it all could have been prevented if I'd had a traditional colonoscopy years earlier. I began urging my children to have screening colonoscopies."

Ryan's daughter Cyndi, a 44-year old Continental flight attendant, made time for a colonoscopy that found two polyps, one precancerous. Both were removed. Her son Glynn's colonoscopy revealed seven polyps, with three precancerous ones, and again all were removed.

"This highly preventable cancer continues to claim 50,000 lives each year," said Mark Pidala, M.D. of the Colon & Rectal Clinic. "With routine colonoscopies, this statistic can be reduced."

Family History Not Whole Story: Please Pay Attention to Symptoms
Publication Date:1/18/2009 5:19:00 PM

Pay attention to symptoms

Under "Family History of Serious Illness" Cindy Caubarreaux always checked "no". So the young wife and mother from Tomball was shocked to hear at age 28 that she had stage 3 colon cancer.

>> Full Story

Looking back, Caubarreaux admits that classic warning signs were easily brushed off. First, she had just given birth to Hayley, her second child with husband Chris. Spotting blood pointed to hemorrhoids. Second, the active mom fell outside all the traditional at risk groups she was younger than 50, and her family had no history of colon cancer.

For two years, Caubarreaux rationalized bouts of stomach distress and constipation until an unforgettable Easter 2008 dinner when unbearable pain drove her to the Colon & Rectal Clinic's Lisa Chen, M.D.
"Colorectal cancers typically grow from small polyps," said Dr. Chen. "Cindy's tumor had become too large to get through with a colonoscope."

Surgery was performed after six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor.

Dr. Chen then performed a surgical resection and removed the lymph nodes. Another round of chemotherapy followed.Today, Caubarreaux is dealing with early menopause a result of the radiation treatment. Still, she's full of energy and pursuing her degree in interior design and sewing creatively fashionable dresses for her kids. Hopeful that the cancer is behind her, she takes every opportunity to speak out about cancer awareness.

Cancer Survivor Says Heed Warnings
Publication Date:4/17/2008 12:54:00 PM

Faces in the crowd: Cancer survivor says heed warnings

By Valerie Sweeten

4/17/08: Alaina Kurz, a Willowbrook-area resident, never realized that getting a second opinion for a medical condition could be the difference between life and death.

Kurz, 50, sought the opinion of Dr. Lisa Chen when a bloody polyp appeared one day after she had been suffering stomach trouble. Chen, a surgeon at the Colon & Rectal Clinic at 800 Peakwood, found colorectal cancer in Kurz, who was only 43 in 2001.

>> Full Story

Prior to this polyp, Kurz had seen two doctors for her condition with no hint that colon cancer could be the problem.
Colorectal screenings - often suggested for people 50 or older - detect polyps, which can be removed before they become cancerous.

For Kurz, who had no family history of cancer, the discovery was a pure surprise. "I hadn't felt good for about two years with problems with my digestive system," she said.

In March 2001, a biopsy was ordered on the rectal mass and T1 cancer - an early stage of the disease - was detected.

Chen said Kurz did herself a service by getting checked again.

"This was very early stage cancer that was curable with surgery and no chemotherapy or radiation. If caught early, you can get the polyps before they have a chance to grow," she said.

The only good thing about the cancer is that it is avoidable, Chen said.

"Any kind of the bleeding from the bowel should not be ignored. It's one of the most preventable cancers there is. One in 17 people are diagnosed, and I think this is going to improve from aggressive screenings," she said.

Kurz's surgery removed nearly a two-inch wide portion of her colon.

After one week in the hospital and 14 days at home, Kurz returned to work at Hewlett-Packard, 20555 State Highway 249, as an executive administrative assistant.

Husband, Peter Kurz, and daughter, Shelby Bunting, worried during the two-month process, but Kurz's spirits filled the family with hope.

Bunting, 19, was 12 when her mother was diagnosed with the cancer.

"I'm so grateful she's OK," she said.

"You still worry the cancer might come back, but it's been 7 years. She was strong even during her weakest time in the hospital. She kept a smile on her face the entire time. I feel so lucky she survived."

Kurz, originally from Point Pleasant, moved to the Houston Heights, eventually settling in the Willowbrook area.

For the first five years after surgery, Kurz went to see Chen for three-month interval checkups.

Today Kurz focuses on eating healthy, exercising, spending time with old friends and traveling.

"I feel very fortunate. It could've practically ruined my life. Early detection is the key. Don't be afraid. You have to face it, and then it can be resolved. Cancer can be avoided. You won't have to go through what I went through," she said.

by Valerie Sweeten