Brad Pollock knows a lot about cancer. In addition to his appointments as chair of the UC Davis Public Health Sciences Department and associate dean for public health sciences, Pollock is an expert in cancer epidemiology, including the study of what causes cancer, how it spreads and cancer prevention.

Over his career, Pollock has built an international reputation for his research into childhood cancers. As an epidemiologist, he jumped into the world of COVID-19 when the pandemic started.

But, until November 2020, he was never a patient in a hospital.

What was more remarkable is that he found himself a patient in the hospital where he works, being given lifesaving treatment by colleagues.

Colon cancer diagnosis during COVID-19

Pollock was diagnosed with stage II colorectal cancer when COVID-19 was surging, just as the holidays were descending in late November.

“Even though we were at the height of the pandemic, I knew that I shouldn’t delay getting my surveillance colonoscopy,” Pollock said. “Cancer doesn’t take a break for COVID-19, and I didn’t hesitate to get my procedure despite feeling fine and not experiencing any symptoms.”

His cancer diagnosis didn’t completely take Pollock by surprise because, as a cancer researcher, he was aware that his history of inflammatory bowel disease put him at higher risk for colon cancer. But like anyone who hears the words “you have cancer,” the 64-year-old was distraught. His biggest fear was leaving Nancy, his wife of 36 years, all alone.

“I took comfort in knowing that I was in the right place,” said Pollock. “As a cancer researcher, I knew getting my cancer treated at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center would give me the best possible outcome and, at that point, I turned my care over to my peers.”

Pollock didn’t know his surgeon, Elizabeth Raskin, because she had only recently joined the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, but he knew of her reputation as a leader and pioneer in robotic-assisted colorectal cancer surgery.

“I felt incredibly fortunate to look no further than my workplace to get the best possible treatment,” Pollock said.

“Brad had a four-centimeter tumor that had penetrated the lining of his colon,” Raskin said. “Robotic technology enabled him to undergo minimally invasive surgery for his colon cancer and, ultimately, recover very quickly.”