Greenville, S.C. – Dr. Karry Guillory took the referral for a colonoscopy from his family physician and hurried outside to the parking lot. Guillory tossed the paper into the back seat of his car and forgot about it.
Fortunately, Guillory’s wife, Chandra, discovered the document and convinced her husband to set an appointment. Her persistence saved Guillory’s life.
“I had no family history of colon cancer and no symptoms, so I wasn’t about to undergo a colonoscopy,” said Guillory, a Spartanburg County magistrate court judge who formerly worked as a senior administrator at USC Upstate and as a deputy director with the state Department of Juvenile Justice. “Many men, like me, were brought up in a culture of machoism, and they won’t go to a doctor for a test. Fear is another factor, but a colonoscopy is not as bad as many people think.”
To appease his wife, a reluctant Guillory, then 50, went in for the colonoscopy last spring. He was stunned when his doctor found colon cancer. Guillory underwent surgery and had 6 inches of his colon removed. A year later, he is cancer-free and on a mission to convince others to be screened for the deadly but often preventable disease.
Guillory will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Greenville’s Fluor Field on Sunday, June 24, during the Greenville Drive’s “Drive Out Colon Cancer” baseball game, sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. The Drive will wear special blue jerseys (blue is the “color” for colon cancer), and blue bases will be used. The Drive plays the Charleston RiverDogs at 4 p.m.
Fans will receive information about colon cancer prevention. They also will have an opportunity to visit with physicians from Gastroenterology Associates, P.A, of Greenville, who will staff an “Ask a Doctor” station on the stadium’s concourse.
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in South Carolina and nationally, but it is largely preventable. Regular screenings allow doctors to remove polyps – precancerous growths on the inside lining of the colon – before they become cancer. Screenings are recommended beginning at age 50, and earlier for those with a family history of the disease or other risk factors.
“Many men and women, but especially men, are reluctant to have a colonoscopy or really any kind of screening,” Guillory said. “We, as men, have to get beyond that. Colon cancer is a silent assassin. People often won’t notice any symptoms until the cancer has spread and it’s too late.”
The Drive Out Colon Cancer game is part of the ongoing “Love Your Colon” awareness campaign (www.LoveYourColon.org). BlueCross created the campaign in collaboration with the South Carolina Gastroenterology Association, the University of South Carolina’s Center for Colon Cancer Research, CVS Caremark and Genentech to improve screening rates.