March 9, 2020

Hard lessons and no excuses

Scott Hall shares his journey with rectal cancer and his new “no excuses” policy for preventive colorectal cancer screenings.

A positive attitude and expert care helped Scott Hall successfully navigate his colorectal cancer journey.

Like many men his age, 57-year-old Kaiser Permanente member Scott Hall, from Beaverton, Oregon, avoided going to the doctor. Generally healthy and able to weather any illness, Hall figured he could ignore recommended, age-related screenings for colon and rectal cancer — even when he found blood in the toilet.

“When it comes to colonoscopy, most guys can think of every excuse not to go — I was that guy ... It was the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn.”

He tried to flush the evidence away, but his wife caught him and immediately had him visit a gastroenterologist. One colonoscopy later and he was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer.

“When it comes to colonoscopy, most guys can think of every excuse not to go — I was that guy,” said Hall. “It was the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn.”

Screening is key

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women combined in the United States. However, it’s one of a few cancers preventable by screenings like FIT, or fecal immunochemical testing, which looks for blood in the stool, or by the more well-known colonoscopy.

“Colorectal cancer can be prevented by identifying and removing precancerous polyps before symptoms arise,” said Kaiser Permanente Northwest’s colorectal surgeon David Parsons, MD, who also treated Hall. "In Mr. Hall’s situation, participating in recommended screenings before he developed symptoms may have prevented his rectal cancer."

A team-based approach to navigating care

Because Hall’s cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and muscle tissue, treatment entailed a 3-pronged approach of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, requiring the coordination of a multidisciplinary cancer care team, of which Kaiser Permanente’s Nurse Navigator Program was a central part.

“The nurse navigator is a touchstone for our members,” said Anna Villines, RN, Hall’s nurse navigator at Kaiser Permanente’s Interstate Medical Center. “The nurse is the hub not only for the patient, but for the surgeons, oncologists, and specialists contributing to their care.”

According to Hall, he had 4 to 5 appointments a week for nearly 2 years. “I had 28 radiation treatments, chemo for 9 months and 2 surgeries,” he said. “I had to go on short- and long-term disability — I had 36 staples in my pelvis and had to learn how to walk all over again!”

But with the help of his nurse navigator and Kaiser Permanente’s collaborative medical team, Hall never missed an appointment, remained educated on every step of his treatment, and received the care required to make a full recovery.

After 2 surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, Hall is healthy and grateful to share his passion for screening and prevention.

After 2 surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, Hall is healthy and grateful to share his passion for screening and prevention.

An advocate for screening and prevention

Scott received his first post-treatment scan two months ago and was beyond ecstatic to hear his symptoms had not returned. Now, he’s living life to the fullest, enjoying time with his family, and spreading his message to anyone who’ll listen — including other stubborn men like himself.

“I’ve had wives come to me saying, ‘My husband is like you, he will never go in to get checked. Will you please talk to him?’” he said. “I have probably helped to save at least 14 people that I’m aware of where they went in, found cancerous polyps, and had them removed.”

“I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if peer pressure is what it takes to get someone in there to get screened, that makes me feel really good — you can thank me later!”