It was a routine colonoscopy for Ken Senatore.
The Franklin Park resident, 59, was diagnosed at age 36 with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes irritation and ulcers in the large intestine. His doctor, Jan Ravi, MD, a gastroenterologist at UPMC Passavant and Northern Gastroenterology–UPMC, recommended regular colonoscopies every three or four years after his initial diagnosis of the disease because patients with ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
One of the most important tools for preventing cancer is a colonoscopy. In this procedure, a small camera is used to examine the colon. Ken would travel to the UPMC Passavant–McCandless Gastrointestinal Center for his colonoscopies, which are the most common gastrointestinal (GI) procedures performed at the hospital.
Ken’s daily life had not drastically changed with his diagnosis, and he only dealt with a few flareups. He took a low-dose maintenance drug to help combat the ulcerative colitis. After the 15-year anniversary of his diagnosis, Dr. Ravi suggested Ken begin annual colonoscopies. This advice would ultimately save Ken’s life.
Fast forward to December 2018. “Dr. Ravi found a suspicious lesion during a routine colonoscopy,” Ken says. “A biopsy confirmed it was cancerous.”
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Catching Colon Cancer Early
“When caught early, colon cancer is treatable,” says Michelle Victain, DO, a gastroenterologist at Northern Gastroenterology–UPMC in Wexford. “Screening enables us to remove polyps before they become cancerous.”
Polyps are abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. Colon cancer often has no symptoms, which is why colonoscopy screening is so important.
specializes in the care of patients with rectal cancer and ulcerative colitis. In January 2019, Dr. Medich performed a right colectomy to remove the cancer and so as not to take out Ken’s entire colon. About half of his colon was removed and Ken would not have to drastically change his lifestyle.
Ken also underwent a brief round of chemotherapy to remove any remaining cancer cells.
Ken has been cancer-free ever since. To lower the risk of his cancer returning, he exercises regularly, following recommendations from his doctors. He walks at least two miles a day and runs three to four days a week.
“My doctors were fantastic. I’m very fortunate that Dr. Ravi was so adamant about the need for regular colonoscopies to watch for and identify the cancer. And Dr. Medich was a godsend,” Ken says. “My life would be so different now without the care they gave me.”
Comprehensive GI Care, Closer to Home
Ken’s story is not uncommon. As many as 70 million people in the United States have a digestive disorder. But, how do you know if your stomach pains are a more serious problem that could require a doctor visit? Reasons can include a change in bowel habits, nausea or vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and unintentional weight loss.
“It’s essential to see a doctor for persistent symptoms to find out if the condition is harmless or serious. If it is serious, it’s best treated in the early stages when it is most treatable,” Dr. Ravi says.
Comprehensive GI services are now available in the northern communities of Pittsburgh, close to home. A vast range of screening, diagnostic testing, and treatment services at UPMC Passavant’s GI Center include:
- BARRX® procedure.
- BravoTM esophageal pH test.
- Breath tests.
- Colonic stenting.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
- Endoscopic ultrasound.
- Esophageal and colon dilation.
- Esophageal manometry.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy.
- Peg tube placement.
- Single balloon enteroscopy.
Many GI conditions can be treated with medicine or a minimally invasive procedure. If patients do need surgery, UPMC Passavant–McCandless gastroenterologists work closely with the hospital’s colorectal and general surgeons.
“Great patient care happens at UPMC Passavant–McCandless and the GI team is every bit a part of that,” Dr. Medich says.
Michael Mlecko, MD, a gastroenterologist at UPMC Passavant and Northern Gastroenterology–UPMC says they also collaborate with UPMC Passavant thoracic surgeons. “They help us with our patients who have intractable heartburn and esophageal tumors,” he says.
Expert GI Care Is Closer Than You Think
No matter where you live in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh and beyond, you can count on world-class gastrointestinal services. Nearby locations include:
BARRX® is a trademark of Medtronic. Bravo™ is a trademark of BreviTest Technologies, LLC.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.