skip to main content
Main Site Navigation
Top of main content

Colon health routines may need to start sooner than expected

Colon health routines may need to start sooner than expected
Carle Cancer Institute Urbana patient Lori Nelsen has one simple message when it comes to having a colonoscopy.

“As soon as you can have it done, do it. It can save your life.”

Nelsen’s journey began with a simple at-home stool sample test, which detected DNA markers signaling a concern. At 50 years old, she experienced only subtle changes in bowel habits, unaware of potential problems.

The at-home test resulted in a diagnostic colonoscopy which revealed that she had rectal cancer. She turned to Carle, a nationally-accredited program renowned for its expertise in treating rectal cancer.

“They gave me treatment options outside of having the tumor along with the rectum removed,” Nelsen said. The rectum serves as a vital reservoir, retaining stool and preventing unintended leakage. Without it, the solution often involves adjusting to life with a colostomy bag.

Given the diagnosis, Nelsen faced critical decisions. She underwent a course of chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy which targeted the tumor, yielding remarkable results – the tumor vanished. Opting against immediate surgical intervention, she used guidance by the latest advancement in treatment of rectal cancer and opted for a vigilant monitoring strategy called a “watch and wait” approach where she undergoes periodic sigmoidoscopies (a less invasive alternative to colonoscopies) and MRIs.

Nelsen speaks glowingly of the care she received at Carle, particularly acknowledging her team of dedicated physicians and nurses.

 “I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and nurses at Carle. They have been just wonderful,” Nelsen said.

Robert Yu, MD, associate medical director of the Carle Digestive Health Institute, emphasized that a rectal cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean a lifelong reliance on a colostomy bag.

“The landscape of cancer care continues to evolve, and personalized treatment plans tailored to individual needs offer patients greater autonomy and flexibility in their healthcare journey,” he said.

Nelsen attributes her journey’s success to the unwavering support of an exceptional team led by Dr. Yu. Alongside Suparna Mantha, MD, and Daniel Barnett, MD, PhD as well as compassionate care provided by Susan VanBibber, RN, Nelsen found herself surrounded by a group of dedicate professionals who stood by her every step of the way.

 “They made such an amazing impact in my life and for my family since November 2022,” Nelsen said.

The Carle Digestive Health Institute offers a comprehensive and holistic approach to each patient encompassing screenings, medical and surgical interventions, as well as nutritional and social support services. Visit for more information.

Categories: Redefining Healthcare, Community

Tags: Carle Cancer Institute, Champaign-Urbana, colon, colonoscopy, Digestive Health Institute