Working For Your Health


One twin's colonoscopy saved his brother's life

Posted at 10:09 AM, Mar 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 10:36:19-04

BALTIMORE — Colon Cancer screenings can save lives, but for one reason or another, the fear of the test often keeps people from signing up for a colonoscopy.

Michael Varley was no different.

At the age of 52, he had never had a colonoscopy and wasn't planning on having one. That all changed when his identical brother went in for a colonoscopy and found polyps. There was no cancer detected in his brother, but his doctor urged him to have the rest of his family checked out.

"I don't think there's any way on earth I would have gotten that test. I had to be forced into it, so when your mother says 'I want you to get a colonoscopy for my birthday,' it's like you couldn't refuse," said Varley.

Today he's thankful for his mother's birthday request because it saved his life. After the colonoscopy, it was determined that he did have colon cancer. At the time it was Stage II and only required surgery.

"I had surgery in December 2013 and everyone thought I was cured at that point. I thought I was just about cured and Dr. Mohebtash, my oncologist, was still suspicious and ordered for me to get one more cat scan and that's when they found stuff in my liver," said Greg.

As Varley's oncologist at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, Dr. Mohebtash kept a close eye on Varley's scans.

"There were two very small spots in the liver that were too small to biopsy, so I kept repeating the cat scans to see if they grew or not. Once they grew enough to be a biopsied, I biopsied them," said Dr. Mohebtash.

After having half of his liver removed, Greg thought he was in the clear. More tests later revealed a small tumor in his lung and a special gene that made him more prone to certain cancers.

"He was harboring a mutation called P53 mutation which is a hereditary mutation. His brother also carries that," said Dr. Mohebtash. "For these people, surveillance and close monitoring is very important."

It's been five years since Michael's initial surgery and he is now cancer free. Both Dr. Mohebtash and Michael Varley urge everyone to consult their doctors about getting a colonoscopy.

According to Varley, the test was easy and not nearly as bad as what he had imagined. For more information on MedStar Health click here