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UChicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center Cancer Survivor, Ferial Jackson

“I thought it was the end of the world,” says Ferial Jackson of her diagnosis of colon cancer in the Spring of 2019. After unexplained symptoms of stomach and bowel pain, Ms. Jackson followed up on her primary care doctor’s recommendation, and saw gastroenterologist Neil Sengupta, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center. After a colonoscopy, Dr. Sengupta diagnosed Ms. Jackson with colon cancer, and recommended her for surgery right away.

A year and a half later, Ms. Jackson is now in remission thanks to colon cancer screening conducted by Dr. Sengupta, and non-invasive surgery performed by Konstantin Umanskiy, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center.

“I’ve been blessed. I am so blessed. I had a team at the University, they helped me going into it, and coming out of it, all the way up until today… And they say I look fantastic! Dr. Umanskiy was wonderful. I went to see him this past week, and he was very impressed with how I’ve healed,” said Ms. Jackson.

Following her surgery, Ms. Jackson needed no additional treatment—no chemotherapy, no radiation. When Dr. Sengupta learned of her family history—her grandfather, two uncles, an aunt all had colon cancer—he recommended that she participate in clinical research to help understand the genetic bases of colon cancer, including Lynch syndrome and MUTYH-associated adenomatous polyposis, or MAP.

Today, Ms. Jackson is back to her normal routines and her regular self. But her journey didn’t end there – now she is on a mission to make sure that her friends and neighbors get tested and screened for colon cancer, and to help those in her community live longer, healthier lives.

“I started investigating, talking to other relatives, and it worked out good. This year, two of my brothers and my son had their colons tested already… I talk to a lot of people about colon cancer. My friends, my family – and I tell them some of the symptoms I was having, and try to help people be aware, because a lot of people are scared.”

An ambassador for testing in her community, Ms. Jackson reaches out to everyone she can to help to spread the word about the importance of cancer testing and treatment, explaining, “Thirty years ago, it wasn’t like this. I tell everybody, see how far advanced medical science has come. My mother died from cancer at 46 and my sister died 51, and here I am a cancer survivor. I am so blessed.”

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