Young Duluth woman’s life saved by early cancer detection

Doctor offers prevention tips during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Doctor offers prevention tips during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month(WEAU)
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 8:47 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. -- It would have been easy for Anna Dahlgren to ignore that small amount of blood in her stool.

“I happened to work at the same place as my primary doctor,” said Anna Dahlgren, a colorectal cancer survivor. “I saw her in the hallways and asked her what she thought. She said that it didn’t seem normal and ordered me a colonoscopy.”

Being only 33-years-old, Dahlgren and her doctor assumed it was just hemorrhoids, until they found a large tumor.

“At that point my doctor had a feeling it was cancerous, but she couldn’t say until the pathology came back,” said Dahlgren. “About three days later she called me and told me it was colon cancer.”

Just a few weeks after that call, Dahlgren quickly went in for a colon resection surgery, where she got 16-inches of her large intestine removed.

Doctors later told her that it was stage one cancer.

Luckily, Dahlgren’s choice to get a colonoscopy saved her life.

The procedure is not as scary as it sounds, normally using a camera called a colonoscope.

″It’s actually not a big thing, it’s nice and flexible,” said Dr. Jon Reich, a gastroenterologist at Essentia Health. “You can see on a screen that it’s a nice high-definition camera. When you point it to my hand, you can see all the little wrinkles.”

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., but it is highly preventable through these early screenings.

Plus, it only takes a couple hours.

“We take that scope and gently navigate it through the person’s colon,” said Dr. Reich. “Normally we use different types of sedation, but there is minimal discomfort, if any, with these procedures. Sometimes people don’t even remember the procedure afterwards.”

The average age to get checked is 45, but like Dahlgren, it’s never too early to get a screening.

“It completely saved my life,” said Dahlgren.

If detected early, colorectal cancer is beatable 90% of the time.

For possible symptoms, or tip on how to help prevent colon cancer, reach out to your primary doctor.