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Legacy leader says colonoscopy saved her life, encourages screening

April 03, 2024

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Image of Tamara with husband Andy

Pictured: Tamara with husband Andy

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It was spring of 2012 when Tamara Uppendahl, now vice president of People Strategy & Engagement, read a Legacy employee news article about the importance of screening beginning at age 40 for persons with family history of colon cancer.

Then age 43, she did have family history of colon cancer, but had always heard that 50 was the age to begin screening. That guidance is now age 45. Even though she had no symptoms, she took the news article to heart and made an appointment for a colonoscopy.

Immediately after the procedure, her provider told her he had found and removed two polyps, including a large one over a centimeter in length. “He told me if I had waited until age 50, I would have been sent straight to oncology, as we would have been far removed from being able to treat it there,” she recalls.

Instead, because the polyps were found early, her treatment plan was the removal of the polyps and a recommendation to get screened every three years. Her next colonoscopy is this year.

The results were a “huge wakeup call,” she said, prompting her to become an advocate among family members and friends for early screening. A few have had polyps removed as a result. One childhood friend, uncomfortable talking about colorectal issues, didn’t seek care when he needed it and died from rectal cancer at age 46.

“When someone I care for says they don’t want to be screened, I let them know that the prep is worse than the procedure itself, but really not that bad,” she said. “I also share my experience that it takes just part of one day of your life to literally save your life.”

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