In August, McKee was on the job during a renovation project at Holy Redeemer Hospital when he ran into his primary care physician. The chance encounter prompted McKee to schedule an appointment to take a look at some issues he had started experiencing.
"There was blood in my stool," said McKee. "Hemorrhoids are pretty common in my line of work, so that's what I figured it was. When I saw my doctor, I thought I should get it checked out anyway."
That impromptu decision turned out to be the difference between a good outcome and bad outcome when McKee's doctor sent him to get a colonoscopy. The results caught a cancerous tumor still in an early stage that could have turned deadly if left undetected much longer.
McKee is now in the middle of chemotherapy program through Abington Memorial Hospital, with his third of six treatments scheduled for Friday. After the sixth dose, he will go into surgery to have what's left of the tumor removed, followed by six weeks of recovery.
"That was the only day I was scheduled to be on the Holy Redeemer site," said McKee. "I'm not a very religious person, but I don't believe in coincidences anymore. Neither does my doctor."
With a good outlook on his diagnosis, McKee wants to get the word out on the importance of regular colonoscopy screenings. It's a procedure that may bring up unpleasant images, but it can make a difference between good and bad outcomes.
"Don't be afraid of it," said McKee. "If I waited much longer, I would not have such good news. I am treatable and curable."
According to a study by the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US, with about 141,210 new cases and 49,380 deaths expected in 2011.
The study makes several recommendations to help prevent a cancer diagnosis, including:
1. Get screened regularly.
2. Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
3. Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
4. Consume a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources; specifically:
- Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.
- Limit your consumption of processed and red meats.
The screenings are recommended to begin at age 50, then regularly every 10 years. In the case of 48-year-old McKee, his symptoms compelled his doctor to order the test.