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Participating in a Colon Cancer Trial Using Telemedicine


Marilyn is participating in an NCI clinical trial using telemedicine practices.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Marilyn

While COVID-19 surged in the United States in 2020, a colonoscopy revealed that Marilyn had stage III colon cancer. “I had no symptoms of colon cancer, so I was surprised to hear I had it,” Marilyn said. She’s glad she listened to her doctor and had the cancer screening test.

Facing cancer can be daunting, but Marilyn had been up to the challenge twice. She had been treated in the previous 5 years for kidney and breast cancers, and both were in remission. Her colon cancer diagnosis and treatment, however, came with new challenges: required social distancing and safety practices because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As much as possible, she and her clinical care team adapted to telemedicine practices, engaging via telephone and video instead of in-person visits. And Marilyn has appreciated the ease of staying in contact with them.

“At times, I’ve had to talk with my doctor on the phone. He would call me, and we would talk. I felt supported,” she recalled. “All my doctors are looking after me.”

When her cancer doctor suggested she enroll in an NCI-sponsored phase 3 clinical trial offered locally through Marshfield Medical Center, an affiliate of the Wisconsin NCI Community Oncology Research Program community site, Marilyn readily agreed. The trial is testing the effectiveness of adding the immunotherapy agent atezolizumab (Tecentriq) to standard combination chemotherapy given after surgery to patients whose colon cancer has a molecular feature called mismatch repair deficiency.

“If it may help me and help somebody else, let’s do it,” she said. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and 12 inches of her lower intestine, and continues to receive treatment through the ongoing clinical trial.

Marilyn is looking forward to visiting her sister in Oklahoma and spending time with her 14 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. She’ll continue to share her cancer experiences with her family and friends. “I told my grandkids that anytime you feel like something’s not right, don’t be afraid,” Marilyn said. “It doesn’t hurt to call the doctor and ask them. That’s what they’re there for.”

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