Risk Factors

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month – Reduce Your Cancer Risks Today

lung-cancerAccording to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer accounts for about 13% of all new cancers. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. For smokers, the risk of lung cancer is higher than non-smokers risks so I encourage smokers to make a plan to quit smoking during this lung cancer awareness month.

I would also recommend that you stay away from all tobacco products and byproducts, including second hand smoke. It’s never too late to stop smoking, contact Emory HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse about finding a primary physician who can assist you in your health goals.

In addition to not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests you get your home tested for radon. Radon, a naturally occurring gas that comes from rocks and dirt, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon can have a big impact on indoor air quality if you would like more information on test kits call 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or visit the website www.UGAradon.org.

About Dr. Sancheti

sanchetiLocated at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Dr. Sancheti specializes in thoracic oncology, minimally invasive thoracic surgery, esophageal surgery, and lung transplantation.

A board certified thoracic surgeon, Manu S. Sancheti, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery of the Department of Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine. He joined the Emory faculty in 2014. Dr. Sancheti holds memberships with the American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Dr. Sancheti received his MD from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 2006, after which he did a general surgery residency at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City from 2006-2011. He joined the faculty at Emory University after completing his cardiothoracic surgery residency on a general thoracic track there.

Risk Factors and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is a flat, banana-shaped organ that is located behind the stomach. Functionally, it can be regarded as two separate organs based on the chemicals each produces. The exocrine pancreas makes up the largest part of the gland and is responsible for creating enzymes that help break down foods we eat so that they can be used by the body. The endocrine pancreas is composed of groupings of cells that make up a much smaller part of the gland. These cell clusters, called islets, are responsible for producing hormones, such as insulin, that help regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.

What are the risk factors and symptoms of pancreatic cancer? Winship surgical oncologist, Dr. David Kooby answers those questions.

Learn more about Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Takeaways from the Pancreatic Cancer Live Chat at Winship

Pancreatic Cancer Chat

Thanks to everyone who joined us Tuesday, May 12th for the live online pancreatic cancer program chat at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University hosted by Drs. El-Rayes & Kooby.

Drs. El-Rayes & Kooby answered several of your questions about pancreatic cancer risk factors, symptoms and therapy. There are a variety of treatment options for pancreatic cancer; for some patients, a combination of treatment methods may be used. Check out the conversation by viewing the chat transcript! Here are just a few highlights from the chat:

Question: Who is at the most risk for pancreatic cancer?

David Kooby, MDDr. Kooby: Pancreatic cancer can affect anyone. People with a family history of pancreatic cancer in first degree relatives have an increased risk. Smokers are at risk, as tobacco appears to be a causative factor. Other groups who have an elevated risk of getting pancreatic cancer are those with new onset or long-standing diabetes mellitus and those with one of several uncommon genetic syndromes: BRAC2, HPSS, FMS, Peutz Jegher. Other associations include age over 60, chronic pancreatitis, and obesity. Many of the symptoms for pancreatic cancer are vague, which makes this a difficult disease to diagnose.

Question: When surgery is not an option, are there any treatments beyond chemo and radiation?

Bassel El-Rayes, MDDr. El-Rayes: A number of novel therapies are currently on clinical trials and those include drugs that stimulate the immune system or drugs that target specific molecular abnormalities in cancer (targeted therapies). In addition, in certain situations there are options to use therapies that ablate (physically destroy the tumor). These include nano knife.

 

Question: Are qualifying patients given the option to participate in these trials Dr. El-Rayes?

Bassel El-Rayes, MDDr. El-Rayes: When we evaluate patients in the clinic, we always discuss with them the different options of therapy, including, standard therapy vs. clinical trials. For patients to participate in clinical trials, they have to meet predefined criteria. If patients are interested in clinical trials, we will screen them to determine whether or not the meet these criteria.

 

Question: My sister and brother have both been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within months of each other. There are three remaining siblings. Can you address how we can be tested?

Bassel El-Rayes, MDDr. El-Rayes: The first step would be to see a genetic counselor to look for a possible genetic link. There, they can test for specific genes that might indicate a higher risk in the family.
David Kooby, MDDr. Kooby: If the genetic testing doesn’t yield any abnormality, the second step would be to consult with a pancreatic cancer specialist. These specialists are either gastroenterologists or medical oncologists. Currently, there are no set guidelines on how frequently family members of current patients should be tested. Your specialist can outline a plan that works best for you and your family. Researchers at institutions like Winship are actively working on better methods for screening for pancreatic cancer.

If you missed this chat, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the web transcript. For more information go to the Pancreatic Cancer at Winship Cancer Institute website or 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.

If you have additional questions for Drs. El-Rayes & Kooby, feel free to leave a comment in our comments area below.

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5 Early-Distress Warnings of Digestive Cancer

pancreatic cancer live chatWhen you think of digestion you probably don’t think about the pancreas, but it sits right behind the stomach and works to provide essential digestive functions. The pancreas, only about 4- 6 inches long, is widely known for producing insulin, an important hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, but it also assists the body in the absorption of nutrients into the small intestine.

Pancreatic cancer increases with age and most people are between 60 to 80 years old when diagnosed. Early pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms, however there are five early warning signs that we can all be aware of to better advocate for our health.

  1. Yellow eyes or skin.  The pancreas uses a greenish-brown fluid made in the gallbladder, called bile, to help the small intestine in digestion. If a tumor starts in the head of the pancreas, it can block or press on the bile duct and cause bile to build up. This back-up causes yellow discoloration, called jaundice.
  2. Belly pain.  Pain has been described as distressing, as compared to a sharp cramp or ache. Pain may go away when you lean forward because it and spreads toward the back.
  3. Change in stool.  Pale, floating, smelly stools. Or dark stools. Let your stool be a guide. If a pancreatic tumor prevents digestive fluids from reaching the intestine, the result is an inability to digest fatty foods. Anytime there is a change with digestion then check in with your doctor. It may not be a sign of digestive cancer, but you do need to be aware of your own body function to determine what is or is not “normal.”
  4. Lack of appetite.  Or sudden, unexplained weight loss. A drop in appetite and a tendency to feel full after eating very little is something to be aware of. Again, it may not be alarming but you do need to be aware of your own body function to determine what is or is not “normal.”
  5. Diabetes, especially if unexpected from regular check-ups.  Most diabetes diagnoses are not due to pancreatic cancer; however, research studies show that pancreatic cancer patients have a higher rate of diabetes diagnosis than the general populace. Knowing your family history of pancreatic cancer and having a baseline of regular screening will help your doctor evaluate if additional tests should be done.

Being an advocate for your health starts with healthy behaviors; tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, accounts for 20-30% of pancreatic cancer. Knowing risk factors you should avoid (such as smoking) and being aware of what your body is signaling will help you in early detection as well as potential outcome.

Management of cancer requires a multidisciplinary team of healthcare specialists. Winship’s pancreas cancer team includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists as well as pain specialists, nutritionists and social workers. For patients with early stage pancreatic cancer, the Whipple surgical procedure is the best option for long-term survival. Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University surgeons perform a large number of Whipple procedures every year; a high volume of these procedures directly translates into the expertise needed to perform the procedure safely. According to published data, mortality rates from Whipple surgery are four times lower at hospitals performing a high volume of the procedure, such as Emory. Some patients may be candidates for laparoscopic or robotic surgery, which may improve both recovery and cosmetic appearance after surgery. Winship at Emory surgeons are leading the world in this area as well. If diagnosed with cancer it’s important to get to Winship, first.

Continue learning about pancreatic with a conversation; all are welcome to attend an online open-forum discussion about pancreatic cancer. We will answer your questions about pancreatic cancer risk factors, symptoms and therapy on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 at noon.

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About Dr. El-Rayes

Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistBassel El-Raye, MD, is the Director of the GI Oncology Clinical and Translational Research Program, Associate Cancer Research Director for Clinical Research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Professor of Hematology and Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. El-Rayes earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and doctoral degree from the American University of Beirut. He then completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at Wayne State University, Detroit. He was on faculty at Wayne State University Karmanos Cancer Institute from 2003-2009. Dr. El-Rayes clinical interests include gastrointestinal malignancies specifically pancreatobiliary and neuroendocrine cancers. He is principle investigator on multiple investigator initiated trials. He has served on the gastrointestinal committee for Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) and Radiation Oncology Cooperative Group (RTOG). He currently serves on the National Cancer Institute Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET) Task Force. He also serves as Co-chair of Hoosier Oncology Group (HOG) Cancer Research Network – Gastrointestinal Clinical Trials Working Group. Dr. El-Rayes is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Clinical Scholar. He has published over 90 peer reviewed articles in elite journals including Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research.

About Dr. Kooby

David Kooby, MDDavid A. Kooby, MD, FACS, specializes in laparoscopic/robotic and open surgical treatment of liver, bile duct, pancreas, stomach, and colon tumors/cancers. He also has expertise with tumors and diseases of the spleen, adrenal glands, and retroperitoneum. He has taught many national courses on laparoscopic resection of the liver, pancreas, and colon, and is frequently invited to speak at national conferences. He received his MD at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical College, Brooklyn, NY, in 1994; completed his surgical residency at Vanderbilt University, where he won medical student and resident teaching awards. He completed both bench research and clinical fellowships at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY. He was recruited by Emory in 2003, and is currently an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology, Director of Surgical Oncology at Emory/Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Director of Minimally Invasive GI Surgical Oncology. He serves on several national committees including the task force charged with updating the staging of hepatobiliary malignancies for the American Joint Committee on Cancer’s Cancer Staging Manual, the research and education committee for the American Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, and the Hepatobiliary Working Group for the Society of Surgical Oncology. He is leader in multicenter clinical research and is a national leader in minimally invasive pancreatic surgery.

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Take Steps Now to Prevent Cancer

April CancerApril is Cancer Control Month. That means we need to find ways to reduce our risk of cancer as well as the chances that we’ll die from the disease. We have a tough job ahead. Before the year is over, nearly 1.7 million Americans will be newly diagnosed with cancer. It’s a sobering statistic and one that we can impact in a big way by taking steps now to help prevent the second leading cause of death in the United States.

If you’re a smoker, find a way quit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes can cause cancer in almost any part of the body and is responsible for some of the most deadly types of the disease. As an oncologist, I would recommend that you stay away from all tobacco products and byproducts, including second hand smoke.

It is estimated that one in three Americans is now obese. Obesity is proven to be a major risk factor for breast, colon, esophageal and kidney cancers. It’s more important than ever that you maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Pay attention to portion size and cut down on alcohol consumption. While you’re at it, get off the couch and get some regular exercise. It will not only help you watch your weight, but studies show staying physically active can lower your risk of certain cancers.

As the summer months approach, be sure to protect your skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation by wearing sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. Cover up or better yet, stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am to 2pm and stay away from tanning beds and sun lamps.

Finally, some cancers are hereditary. Know your family history of cancer and learn about the importance of early detection through screening. If you’re a woman at average risk for breast cancer, be sure to have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year starting at age 40. Women ages 30-65 should also be screened every five years for cervical cancer. Colorectal cancer screening for women and men should begin in those 50 and older. Your health care provider can give you more information about the benefits of a colonoscopy.

For advice on locating cancer-screening opportunities, contact Emory Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.

About Dr. Jillella

Anand Jillella, MDAnand Jillella, MD, is a national leader in bone marrow transplantation and has led the development of a strategy to decrease induction mortality for acute promyelocytic leukemia. He leads the efforts of the Winship Cancer Network and is expanding Winship’s role in bringing clinical and population-based cancer research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states.

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Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Takeaways from Dr. Saba’s Head and Neck Cancer Chat

Thanks to everyone who joined us on Tuesday, June 24, for our live online chat on “Risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for head and neck cancer” led by Nabil Saba, MD, Chief of Head and Neck Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all cancers in the U.S. During the chat, Dr. Saba addressed some of your questions relating to risk factors, symptoms and the latest research for head and neck cancer. See all of Dr. Saba’s answers by checking out the chat transcript! Here are just a few highlights from the chat:

Question: What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer? How do I know if I need to go get checked out?

Nabil Saba, MDDr. Saba: Symptoms include having a lump in the neck, persistent changes in your voice over time, difficulty swallowing, and unusual pain in the neck/throat area (pain that doesn’t seem to get better with time). These are some common symptoms, so if you’re experiencing any of these, it would probably be a good idea to talk to your physician.

 

Question: Are there particular factors or traits that may pre-dispose a person to head or neck cancers?

Nabil Saba, MDDr. Saba: There are certain well-defined risk factors for head and neck cancer, including a history of smoking or alcohol consumption. It has also been observed that HPV-related oropharynx cancer is increasing in Caucasian males, whereas oral tongue cancer seems to be increasing in Caucasian females. While there is an increased risk of head and neck cancer in these groups of people, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are at high risk if you fall into one of these groups.
 
If you missed out on this live chat, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the web transcript. You can also visit www.emoryhealthcare.org/cancer for more information on cancer treatment at Winship at Emory.

4 Ways Men Can Lower Their Risk of Cancer

Family ManOne out of every two men in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives. It’s a sobering statistic to consider as we head into Father’s Day weekend. Beyond skin cancer, men are most frequently diagnosed with prostate, lung or colorectal cancer. Those are also the three malignancies responsible for the highest number of deaths in men.

Reducing your risk of cancer is more important than ever. Here are four ways to make an impact today.

  1. If you use any tobacco products, quit now. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than a dozen types of cancer including those involving our lungs, bladder, and mouth. Chewing tobacco and snuff can also cause head and neck, esophageal, stomach or pancreatic cancer. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to help you kick the habit for good. Finding a support group can also make a big difference in whether you succeed.
  2. Cut back on alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can cause health problems, but did you also know that alcohol can increase your risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, liver and colon? Even worse: drinking and smoking at the same time. It is recommended that men consume no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. In case you were wondering, one drink contains 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
  3. Listen to your wife or partner and get a checkup. Starting at the age of 50, men at average risk for colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy. If no polyps are found, the test should be repeated every 10 years. Your doctor may recommend a fecal occult blood test at an earlier age. Also at 50, talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of getting a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. If you are considered to be in a high-risk group, your doctor may recommend that you be tested earlier.
  4. Get off the couch and get some exercise. You’ve heard it before, but as a doctor, I can tell you that regular physical activity is one of the best ways to control your weight, reduce stress and lower your risk of cancer. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous workouts.

As you get ready to celebrate Father’s Day, put down that cigarette and beer, get outside and grab a tennis racket, a soccer ball or even a Frisbee. Also don’t forget to wear sunscreen…at least with a SPF of 30! Have a great Father’s Day!!!

About Dr. Curran

Walter Curran, MDWalter J. Curran, Jr., MD was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

Risk Factors and Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer ChatHead and neck cancer includes a collective group of cancers occurring in the head or neck region, ranging from the nasal cavity and sinuses, to the back of the throat, including the oral cavity, tonsils, base of the tongue, nasopharynx, hypopharynx and larynx.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all cancers in the U.S. Studies show that these cancers are more common in people over the age of 50 and three times more common in men than in women; however, if diagnosed early, head and neck cancer is often curable.

Recently, a growing number of cancers occurring in the base of the tongue and tonsils have been linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), which is already a well known risk factor for cervical cancer in women. HPV-related head and neck cancer is a distinct type of cancer and so far has been diagnosed more in men than women.

Join Nabil Saba, MD, Chief of Head and Neck Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, as he hosts a live chat on “Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer.” Dr. Saba will be available to answer all of your questions such as:

  • What are the known risk factors linked to head and neck cancer?
  • What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?
  • How is head and neck cancer diagnosed?
  • Can head and neck cancer be prevented?

Chat Details:

Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Time: 12:30- 1:30 pm EST
Chat Leader: Dr. Nabil Saba
Chat Topic: Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer

Chat Sign Up

Sun Damage Lasts a Lifetime

Sun ProtectionAfter a long, rough winter, it feels good to put away the jackets and get out the swim gear. As a melanoma oncologist, the summer is a double-edged sword as it also means that many people will be out in the sun doing irreversible damage to their skin. Not only can sun safety decrease your risk of skin cancer, it also can help protect you from the visible signs of aging. Who doesn’t want less cancer and to look younger at the same time? Unfortunately, some people believe they need a good burn or base tan to start the summer. Hopefully, I can change your mind about this with some basic information about skin cancer and a few tips on enjoying the summer without increasing your risk of developing skin cancer (or more wrinkles).

Skin cancer affects over three million people each year, making it by far, the most common cancer. The three most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell cancers are the most prevalent and originate from keratinocytes. These cancers are often referred to as “non-melanoma skin cancers.” They affect a little over two million Americans each year, with 80 percent of these being basal cell cancers. Most non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by repeated exposure of the skin to ultraviolet rays (primarily UVA and UVB) from sunlight or from artificial sources such as tanning beds. These rays damage the DNA in skin cells and cause them to grow and divide unregulated, thus producing a cancer. These types of skin cancers tend to stay in the skin, and therefore very few patients will die from basal or squamous cell cancers. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 people die each year from non-melanoma skin cancers.

In contrast, melanoma is a cancer that originates from melanocytes that normally make pigment to protect the other layers of the skin from sun damage. Melanocytes can also make non-cancerous growths like moles. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 76,100 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2014 with 9,710 deaths from this disease, making it the most deadly form of skin cancer. Lifetime risk of melanoma in the U.S. is about 1 in 50, and notably it is one of the most common cancers in those younger than 30. When diagnosed early, surgery alone has excellent survival rates. In the past there were few long-term survivors from advanced cases of melanoma. Fortunately, many novel therapeutic agents are being developed that have transformed the treatment of more advanced stages of melanoma with five new agents approved by the FDA since 2011. All of these new drugs are changing the landscape of melanoma treatment and patients are now not only living longer, but also with better quality of life.

Though melanoma development is more multi-factorial than basal or squamous cell cancer development, it is still linked to UV exposure through sunlight or tanning beds. The best way to decrease one’s risk of skin cancer development is to avoid long exposures to intense sunlight and practice sun safety measures. When outside, I recommend the use of broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), use of sun protective clothing such as sun shirts and board brim hats, and avoid direct exposure between 10AM and 2PM when the intensity of the rays is the strongest. Sunscreen should be applied about 20-30 minutes prior to going outside and reapplied approximately every two hours. Because this is difficult to do, even for myself, I recommend barriers like sun shirts or umbrellas over sunscreen if possible.

Keep in mind the sun damage that occurs now will be with you for the rest of your life, so please don’t forget your sun protective gear on your way out to enjoy the beautiful weather.

About Dr. Kudchadkar

Ragini Kudchadkar, MDRagini R. Kudchadkar, MD is an assistant professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She specializes in cutaneous oncology with an emphasis on the development of clinical trials for patients with metastatic melanoma. Dr. Kudchadkar previously worked as an assistant member of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. In addition to her clinical practice, Kudchadkar is involved in research that focuses on signal transduction inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic melanoma with a secondary interest in rare cutaneous malignancies such as advanced merkel cell and basal cell carcinomas.

Kudchadkar graduated from the Emory School of Medicine in 2003 and completed her internal medicine residency at Emory in 2006. She pursued her hematology and medical oncology training at the University of Colorado in Denver, CO, where she also served as chief fellow.

Related Resources

Melanoma Chat TRANSCRIPT
Dermatologist #1 Skin Care Rule – Wear Sunscreen!
Skin Cancer Prevention: Which Sunscreen is Best?

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

Colon Cancer AwarenessMarch is colorectal cancer awareness month. For those who aren’t familiar with this cancer type, it encompasses cancers that begin in either the colon or the rectum.

The National Cancer Institute identifies colorectal cancer as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. The majority of these deaths are preventable with screening and early detection, and according to the American Cancer Society, the number of colorectal cancer cases has gone down due mainly to the increase in early detection of the disease through screening.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Although colorectal cancer can affect anyone, there are certain people at higher risk of developing this disease. Colorectal cancer has a higher incidence in men as compared to women and in African Americans as compared to Caucasians. The incidence of colorectal cancer increases with age with 90 percent of new cases occurring in patients who are 50 years or older. There is a familial predisposition to development of colorectal cancer. About 20 percent of patients with colorectal cancer have a close relative with the same disease.

Colorectal Cancer Prognosis

The main thing determining the long-term outcome for patients with colorectal cancer is the stage of the disease at diagnosis. The stage is determined by the extent of spread of the tumor. Patients with early stage cancer (disease localized to the colon) have an excellent outcome with a high likelihood of long-term survival. On the other hand, patients diagnosed with advanced stage disease (disease involving other organs) have a lower chance of long-term survival. This is the reason why early diagnosis through screening is essential for improving the outcome of this disease.

Colorectal Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

Candidates for screening include people over the age of 50, people with a family history of colon cancer, and people with predisposing medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. Several methods have been used for screening for colorectal cancer. These include testing the stool for blood, direct visualization of the colon using a scope (colonoscopy) or specialized scans (virtual colonoscopy).

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

The most promising research into treating colorectal cancers is being done in the areas of personalized medicine and targeted therapies. In personalized medicine, researchers are trying to identify unique characteristics of tumors that make them vulnerable or resistant to known drugs. This approach would allow for therapy that is tailored for a specific patient based on the unique characteristics of the cancer in that individual. In targeted therapies, investigators are trying to find new drugs that are more selectively targeted to the cancer cells. This approach allows for more effective therapies with fewer side effects.

Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistAbout Dr. El-Rayes

Dr. Bassel El-Rayes joined Emory University in September 2009 as the director of the GI Oncology program. He is currently the Associate Cancer Center Director for Clinical Research at Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. El-Rayes completed his medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He subsequently joined the internal medicine residency and then the hematology oncology fellowship at Wayne State University. He joined faculty as an Assistant Professor in the area of GI oncology. During this time, he was involved in translational research focused on GI cancer with special focus on pancreatic and colorectal cancer. In the clinical research, Dr. El-Rayes is focused on drug development and multidisciplinary therapy treatments in patients with early stage or advanced GI cancer