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20160225  Anita Yates  Cancer Series 5068 1200x630

Anita Yates and her life-saving reminder

Colon cancer survivor proves value of regular colon cancer screenings.

Category: Cancer

Anita Yates is typically very good about scheduling her annual physical exams.

Somehow, though, a year went by without her seeing her doctor. When Yates finally had an appointment the next year, her doctor reminded her about getting a routine screening for colon cancer, a colonoscopy.

That nudge just might have saved her life.


After having a colonoscopy, Yates learned she had stage 2 colorectal cancer. “The diagnosis was a shock at first because I consider myself a pretty healthy person,” Yates says. “I’ve never been hospitalized. I’ve never had any kind of surgery.”

Dr. Kelly Tyler, a colorectal surgeon at Baystate Medical Center, removed the section of colon with a cancerous mass. She used a minimally invasive, robot-assisted technique to reconnect the colon. With minimally invasive surgery, recovery is typically faster with fewer complications and less pain. 

After the surgery, Yates took time off from her job as an administrative assistant. She remembers feeling tired and sore around the incision, but otherwise not in pain.


The American Cancer Society warns that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for adults.

“It’s important to get the word out that colon cancer is very common,” says Dr. Tyler. “People who put off their colonoscopy are putting themselves at serious risk.”

Screening is especially important for African American men and women, who tend to have a higher risk for colorectal cancer.


During her recovery, she turned for support to her family and her church, the Revival Time Evangelistic Center in Springfield.

“I continued to believe and trust in God and be positive. But there were some days when I felt a little down, and I was questioning, ‘Why is this happening now in my life,’” Yates shares.

“I came to realize that it wasn’t that I needed to learn something. It was so that other people could see what I was going through,” she says.

“I’m like a testimony for someone else to know that if I can go through it, they can go through it too.” Her experience even inspired her brother and three sisters to get colonoscopies also.

Yates continued her treatment at Baystate's D’Amour Center for Cancer Care, taking oral chemotherapy treatment as a precaution to guard against the spread of the disease to her liver.

She is grateful to the Baystate Regional Cancer Program for its excellent care and to staff for the depth of their compassion. “My husband and I agree that throughout this whole process, the doctors, the nurses, and the staff—everybody—have been really great.”