Michele Moussa doesn’t have a family history of cancer. She eats well, avoids red meat, exercises often, and has never smoked. When a colonoscopy revealed a cancerous mass after several months of gastrointestinal issues, she was blindsided.
Michele, 44, a Cranbury resident and mother of two, began experiencing bloating, nausea, and blood in her stool last summer. A doctor attributed the symptoms to a hemorrhoid that had burst. When she still experienced discomfort several weeks later, she sought an opinion from Colin Brown, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist on staff at CentraState, who performed a colonoscopy.
“It was hard to process when I woke from the procedure and Dr. Brown said that they had found a mass,” Michele remembers. “It’s not news you want to hear.”
Dr. Brown called his colleague, Thomas Kayal, MD, a colorectal surgeon, who saw Michele the next day. He ordered a CT scan to determine if it was cancer and to see if it had spread to other parts of her body. Based on the images, Dr. Kayal decided to perform robotic surgery with the da Vinci Xi® robotic surgery system to remove the mass, along with two feet of Michele’s colon. Postoperative testing determined that it was stage 2 colorectal cancer.
“Michele was an excellent candidate for robotic surgery,” Dr. Kayal explains. “She was discharged from the hospital just two days after having a major surgical procedure. With traditional open surgery, she would have been in hospital for five days followed by four to six weeks of recovery time.”
Because all of the mass was removed, Michele didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. Moving forward, she’ll have a colonoscopy every year and see an oncologist every three months as a precautionary measure. She’s grateful that Drs. Brown and Kayal were aggressive in finding and treating her cancer.
“If I hadn’t listened to my body, this would have been a much different situation,” says Michele, who teaches barre exercise classes. “Nobody wants to discuss their bowel habits, but it’s something that we need to talk about.”
She’s now an advocate for colorectal cancer awareness, using social media to share information about the disease with friends and family.
“Colorectal cancer can be a silent killer, because most people don’t learn that they have it until it’s stage 3 or 4 and much more difficult to treat,” she adds. “You can’t cure what you haven’t found, so don’t ignore the symptoms.”
For more information about colorectal surgery at CentraState, visit centrastate.com/surgery or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).