Early detection of colorectal cancer makes a difference

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St. Clair Health

When 45-year-old Shannon Gregg and her primary care provider could not determine what was going on with her stomach after a number of tests, she was referred to Mark A. Cedar, DO, Chief of Gastroenterology and Director of the GI Lab at St. Clair Hospital, for a colonoscopy. An otherwise healthy young woman, Shannon had no significant medical history, no family history of colon or rectal cancer, and no smoking history—which increases the risk.

“I began Shannon’s colonoscopy and immediately found a large, obstructing mass in the upper rectum, about five centimeters in length—which is very large,” Dr. Cedar says. “I found many other polyps in her colon, including two large ones that were precancerous, and was able to resect them and remove three additional polyps. So then we had to deal with this rectal mass, and I could tell right away: this is cancer.”

“When I woke up, I heard ‘cancer of the rectum’ and actually felt relief—because now I knew what the problem was to solve. My first feeling was, ‘So where do we start?’” says Shannon. “I met with Dr. Holekamp the very next day, and he said the very same thing as Dr. Cedar. He also looked me square in the eye and said, ‘You’re used to being successful and I am, too. We’re going to get the best team together, and we’re going to crush this cancer together.’”

Scott A. Holekamp, MD, explains, “Our goal is to communicate quickly and effectively so we can get patients on to the next stage right away. The process may include advanced imaging studies, plus consultation with all of the oncologists who become part of your cancer care team— and they get to work on shrinking your tumor so I can perform surgery. Everyone works together to increase your chances of having a complete response to treatment.”

For Shannon, the next stage following her diagnosis and surgical consult led to Christopher R. Marsh, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist at the St. Clair Hospital Cancer Center. He shares, “We take a team-based approach to everything we do. That level of collaboration brings all of our expertise together for every patient. That way we all know the patients, and we’re able to keep their priorities in mind as we evaluate the most effective way to treat their respective cancer.”

Also on the care team was Felicia Snead, MD, Chief of Radiation Oncology, since Shannon’s treatment plan required a combination of chemotherapy and radiation before surgery. Dr. Snead explains, “We coordinate everything— Dr. Marsh and I are in lockstep, starting the chemotherapy and radiation together, and meeting with her weekly to make sure the treatment is accurate and safe,” Dr. Snead says.

“After she completed her radiation, Shannon had surgery with Dr. Holekamp,” says Dr. Cedar. “Then I repeated her colonoscopy again one year later to make sure she didn’t develop additional polyps, with hopes that Shannon and others like her never have to see Dr. Holekamp and the rest of the team down the road.”


Colorectal cancers are highly treatable if detected early, which is why regular screenings are critical. Shannon feels getting screened—even when she didn’t want to and didn’t show any major symptoms—saved her life.

If you are 45 or older, you can schedule a colonoscopy with a gastroenterologist at your convenience. Gastroenterology services are available 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, in Dunlap Family Outpatient Center.

Learn more at stclair.org/gastroenterology.stclair.org