YOUR HEALTH: Treating colon, rectal cancer and saving your quality of life

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Colorectal cancer is on the rise in younger people.

It is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women.

Now a new procedure is not only helping patients diagnosed with rectal cancer fight their battle with cancer, but it is also saving some patients from a permanent lifestyle change.

DIAGNOSING:   If doctors suspect cancer, there are other tests that can be taken in order to diagnose the cancer.   There are blood tests such as complete blood count or chemistry panel, or doctors could take an ultrasound or biopsy.   From there, the next steps are to stage the cancer.   Doctors look at the tumor itself, the lymph nodes and metastasis.   The doctor will also grade the cells inside the body to see how healthy they are with a 0 being the best.   From all of this, the cancer can be staged form 0 to 4C with each stage having sublevels for a better understanding.

"The symptoms I had were much like symptoms of a hemorrhoid or other really benign conditions," recalled Annie Schreiber.

Annie was 36, with no family history of colorectal cancers.

Even her doctors wanted to take a wait-and-see approach.

But then Annie read an article of two people her age who had been diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer and had died.

"That scared me. I have three kids and it's not worth the gamble."

So Annie scheduled a colonoscopy.

Her diagnosis?   Rectal cancer.

Dr. Scott Steele, Chairman Colorectal Surgery Cleveland Clinic, believed Annie would be a good candidate for the TaTME, which stands for Transanal Total Mesorectal Excision.

"What TaTME allows us to basically do is to take those toughest cancers, the cancers in patients who have those that are closest to the anus or big cancer and allows us to get them out and still reestablish the bowel continuity," said Dr. Steele.

Which means that the patient will have an overall speedy recovery, lower risk of complications, and will have no need for a permanent colostomy bag.

For Annie, that option made a huge difference to her quality of life.

"It's a real gift to have the opportunity to not have that permanent operation to your body."

Dr Steele says the TaTME procedure can also be used for people who need proctectomies and those with pouches for inflammatory bowel disease, specifically those with ulcerative colitis.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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