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Marshall Man Urges Others to Have Colorectal Cancer Screen

February 12, 2019 9:42 a.m.

Gary Richards turned 65 before he had a colonoscopy.

He has been busy building homes and working on remodeling projects in the Marshall area for more than 40 years. “I knew I should have a colonoscopy, but I wasn’t having any problems so it wasn’t a priority,” he said. “Thankfully, I’m never sick and I’m not on any medication.”

However, when Richards learned that Sarah Bush Lincoln was offering a limited number of free in-home colon cancer screening kits at the SBL Martinsville Clinic last year, he decided to pick one up. While he knew he was overdue for a check, Richards was also motivated after learning that a close friend had suffered a colon blockage and had to undergo surgery and treatment.

“It got me thinking and I decided it was time to be screened,” he said. A few days after turning in his kit to the Martinsville Clinic, Richards received a call saying he had blood in his stool. “I wasn’t surprised. I’m 65 years old and I work everyday. I have hemorrhoids and things like that,” he said. Gastroenterology nurse Carrol Gottfriedt, LPN, strongly encouraged Richards to schedule a colonoscopy as soon as possible.

Though not alarmed, Richards scheduled a colonoscopy with Gastroenterologist Alexis Ayonote, MD. He was surprised to learn that Dr. Ayonote had removed two polyps during the procedure, including one that was alarmingly large. Dr. Ayonote told him he tattooed the area where the largest polyp was removed so the tissue can be thoroughly rechecked in the future.

A few days later, Richards learned that both polyps were precancerous with the largest polyp having a higher risk of turning into cancer and that Dr. Ayonote wants to repeat the procedure next year. “I’m very thankful I had the procedure and it’s reassuring to know that I’m going to go back in May to make sure everything is okay,” he said. “The nurses were great and Dr. Ayonote was awesome!”

Richards urges people to take advantage of free screenings offered by Sarah Bush Lincoln. A limited number of free Hemosure colon cancer screens are available on a first-come first-served basis from 11 am to 1 pm at the following dates/locations: March 1 at the SBL Arthur Clinic; March 8 at Charleston Rural King; March 15 at the SBL Bonutti Clinic; and March 22 at the SBL Toledo Clinic.

Richards’ advice to others is to get screened. “The kit is free and it’s easy to obtain. It’s well worth being screened to avoid having to go through surgery or cancer treatments. If I hadn’t taken that test, that polyp would still be growing and getting bigger and I wouldn’t even know it until I got sick and wondered why,” he said.

Gottfriedt encourages those who may be reluctant to have a colonoscopy for any reason to pick up a free screening kit. “It’s a very simple test, and you can do it in the privacy of your own home,” she said. Sarah Bush Lincoln is offering free colorectal cancer screening to make sure financial costs – or other factors, such as personal embarrassment – do not prevent people from getting a potentially life-saving screening for colon cancer.

Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should undergo screening for colon cancer. However, 23 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 aren't getting screened as recommended. As a result, colorectal cancer remains the second-leading cancer killer in the United States.

“It’s well worth the time and any possible inconvenience to have the screening,” Dr. Ayonote said. “Too many people think ‘I’m healthy so I don’t need to do anything.’ In its early stages, colorectal cancer has no symptoms. By the time people notice bleeding, bowel changes and bloating, it’s often too late.” Routine screening could save an estimated 30,000 lives each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

For more information, or to make an appointment at SBL Gastroenterology and Special Procedures call 217 258-4155 or go to

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