Posts Tagged ‘colon cancer’

With a Little Help from Friends

lex gilbert cancer survivorI always assumed that cancer would catch up with me one day. After all, my mother and two of my aunts had breast cancer so I figured I must be next in line. Yet it never occurred to me that the rectal bleeding I’d been experiencing could be colon cancer. Surely the sigmoidoscopy ordered by my doctor would lead me to a quick fix and that would be that. Surprise! When I woke up after the procedure, she came to my bedside and told me I had colon cancer.

When I heard those words I went numb. The world looked as it might if viewed through a funhouse mirror. I remember someone standing nearby handing me a box of Kleenex. I didn’t need the Kleenex. I didn’t cry until many weeks later and boy did I need Kleenex then. I think my soul just closed up shop so it could absorb the gravity of my situation at its own pace, and when it was ready to let go of the emotions, it let go.

Believe me, I am not one of those survivors who talk about what a gift it was to have cancer! I certainly would have preferred to learn the lessons taught by cancer in a less painful way, but all things being equal, there were important lessons learned and I think they are clearly worth passing along. Here’s one.

I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. One of the most difficult aspects of being a patient was accepting help from friends. When they offered, I’d say that we didn’t need anything even though that was utterly and completely false. Husbands come in handy sometimes and mine immediately jumped on my reluctance to let folks “in.” At the same time, a dear friend and colleague set up an on-line calendar where I could post what I needed and friends could sign up to help. I could ask for someone to buy me groceries on Wednesday, or help me get the house in order on Saturday, or mow the lawn, drive me to an appointment, or just plain keep me company.

The overwhelming response to the calendar and the ensuing discussions made me realize that when people offer help, they want to help! What a revelation! Too many of us deny our friends the satisfaction and fulfillment that helping someone in need gives them. Allowing folks to help also brings them into our lives in a deeper way, resulting in even more satisfying friendships. The Jedi mind-trick is that letting people help is a gift to them, as well as a gift to you.

About Lex Gilbert

Lex Gilbert is a cancer survivor and very active volunteer with Winship Cancer Institute. She originally comes from southern California, where she ran her own marketing and promotions company serving major corporate clients from throughout the U.S. She has been a life-long volunteer and was awarded “top volunteer” by the County of San Diego for her work mentoring a child in foster care. She moved to Atlanta in 2007 and now works in the Office of Health Promotion at Emory. She was awarded the CLASS Distinguished Service Honor in the Division of Campus Life. Bruce Gilbert, her husband of 32 years, is a musician fighting Parkinson’s disease and also volunteers at Winship as a pianist.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.

“Top Secret” Cancer Facts Worth Sharing

cancer secretsIt’s time to stop being embarrassed about the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More than 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and nearly 50,000 will lose their battle to the disease according to The American Cancer Society.

It’s colon cancer awareness month – share the facts about how a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.

A study, published in JAMA Surgery and recently reported in the NYT, showed that incidences of colorectal cancer have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the mid 1980s. Simply said, more people under the recommended screening age of 50 are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is not embarrassing. There’s simply no sense in keeping secrets from your physician. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family or have particular symptoms that you’re unsure about then it’s time to get the facts from your doctor. Speak openly about your risk factors, prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer are possible by appropriately scheduling a colorectal cancer screening. A conversation with your doctor is always confidential; make it honest and candid.

As a Nurse Practitioner in gastrointestinal cancers, I have had many patients who have stated that they wish they had gotten a colonoscopy as recommended for colorectal cancer screening. They also say they now preach to everyone they know to get their colonoscopies.

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse. No topic is top secret or off limits.

About Ms. Brutcher
Edith Brutcher

A chemotherapy infusion specialist and adult nurse practitioner, Ms. Brutcher’s clinical specialties include gastrointestinal and aerodigestive cancers. She has 27 years experience as a Registered Nurse, and 8 years as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with Medical Oncology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing Adult Practitioner, specializing in oncology and immunology, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment
Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

Robotic Surgery Allows for Minimally Invasive Treatment of Colon and Rectal Cancers

Robotic Surgery for Colorectal CancersColon and rectal cancer affects 140,000 Americans each year and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. For most patients, surgery is recommended at some point in their care as it is the only curative treatment, and tremendous advances in surgical technique have been achieved during the past 20 years. Most notable has been the dramatic increase in minimally invasive surgical techniques, including laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery, and transanal endoscopic microsurgery. The advantages of minimally invasive surgery for patients include shorter hospital stays, less postoperative pain, more positive cosmetic outcomes, and shorter recovery time at home, allowing earlier return to work and normal activities. Importantly, minimally invasive techniques allow patients to resume their other postoperative treatments (i.e., chemotherapy) sooner, with less disruption in their overall care plan.

The addition of robotic surgery to the minimally invasive armamentarium has been a “game-changer,” since it means that minimally invasive approaches can now be used for even the most difficult colon and rectal cancers. The robotic approach can facilitate visualization in difficult locations such as the deep pelvis, allowing for more precise dissections and less blood loss. This can translate to better patient outcomes in many situations, especially in allowing for “sphincter-preserving surgery”—avoiding the need for permanent “bags” or colostomies.

Emory Johns Creek Hospital (EJCH), with the leadership of Dr. Seth Rosen, has developed a nationally recognized Robotic Colorectal Surgery program, and strives to provide the most up-to-date, multi-disciplinary care for patients with Colon and Rectal Cancer. With advanced approaches to pain management and post-operative protocols that enhance recovery times, patients are discharged home earlier, and have fewer post-operative complications. Multi-institutional studies confirm that patients who have access to a board certified colorectal surgeon with a high volume of robotic surgery experience fewer short-term complications and improved long-term cancer survival. At EJCH, patients with Colon and Rectal Cancer are managed by a team of experts including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nutritionists, specialty nurses, physical therapists, and pharmacists.

Dr. Seth Rosen’s experience and data has resulted in him being recognized as a “center of excellence” in robotic colon and rectal surgery. He has presented data at numerous meetings, and instructed surgeons from all over the United States in techniques of robotic colorectal surgery.

 

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

Colon Cancer Prevention Begins with Education and Screenings!

Colon Cancer Online ChatScreening tests like the colonoscopy often find polyps in the colon that can be removed before they turn to cancer. Regular screening also helps find cancer in an early stage, when it is very treatable! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular colon cancer screenings for everyone over the age of 50 would prevent about 60% of deaths from the disease!

The CDC also states that of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. It affects men and women of all different ethnicities and races and is most often found after the age of 50. Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University highly recommends that men and women at average risk for developing colon cancer get regularly screened for the disease.

March is national awareness month for colorectal cancer. To learn more about how to prevent your risk of colon cancer join us on March 12, 2013 at 12 noon EST, for a live web chat with a Winship expert on colorectal cancer. Dr. El-Rayes will answer your questions about preventing colorectal cancer, and tell you about Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s approach to diagnosing and treating it. Some of the questions he can answer:

  • What is colon cancer?
  • How important is colon cancer screening?
  • What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
  • What are the risk factors of colon cancer?
  • Can inflammatory bowel disease cause colon cancer?
  • Do gender, ethnicity, race, obesity, environment and/or social status impact colon cancer risk?
  • Does exercise help prevent colon cancer?
  • Do polyps increase colon cancer risk?
  • Does a family history of colon cancer increase my risk?
  • What is Emory’s approach to colon cancer treatment and care?
  • What new colon cancer research is on the horizon?

About Dr. El – Rayes:
Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistDr. El- Rayes is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, the Director of the GI Oncology Translational Research Program and the Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Dr. El-Rayes completed his medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He subsequently joined the internal medicine residency program at Wayne State University. After completion of the residency, he joined the hematology oncology fellowship program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. He then joined faculty as an Assistant Professor in the area of GI oncology. During this time, he was involved in translational research focused on pancreatic cancer. Dr. El-Rayes joined Emory University in September 2009 as the director of the GI Oncology program. He is designated as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar by the Georgia Cancer Coalition. Dr. El-Rayes is currently the medical director of the Clinical Trials Office.

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An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Colon Cancer Chat Sign UpMarch is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, we gave you an intro to Colorectal Cancer, including statistics, information on the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and information on the most popularly recommended diagnostic test, the colonoscopy. This week, we’re following up with information on preventing and treating cancer of the colon or rectum (also known as colorectal cancer), and providing more information on other methods for diagnosing.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Receiving regular screenings is going to be the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. Catching cancer early while it is still curable and/or removing polyps before they turn cancerous are keys to survival. According to the American Cancer Society, “people who have no identified risk factors (other than age) should begin regular screening at age 50.” If you have a strong family history of colon polyps or cancer, getting screened prior to age 50 is highly recommended. Other advice you’ll see for cancer prevention is similar across cancers. A few things you can do to help improve your health and fight off cancer, including colorectal cancer, include: quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

While a colonoscopy is the most common method of diagnosing and staging colorectal cancer and/or other gastrointestinal disorders, there are several other procedures used including:

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: This test uses a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. It can travel the full length of the rectum and half of the colon.
  • Colonoscopy: This test allows the doctor to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, which is a longer version of a sigmoidoscope.
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema: A type of x-ray test using barium sulfate, which is a chalky liquid, and air to outline the inner part of the colon and rectum, highlighting abnormal areas on x-rays.
  • CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): This is an advanced type of computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan of the colon and rectum. It is non-invasive, can be done fairly quickly, and does not require sedation.

For more information on each of these procedures, please visit the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Treating Colorectal Cancer

After cancer is diagnosed and staged, your multidisciplinary colorectal cancer care team will create a treatment plan using one, or a combination, of these main treatment methods:

  1. Surgery – Surgery is the main treatment method for colorectal cancer. This procedure involves removing the cancer, a section of normal tissue on either side of the cancer, and any local lymph nodes.
  2. Radiation Therapy – A type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation energy to kill cancer cells and shrink cancerous tumors. Colorectal cancer may be treated using external beam radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is medication delivered to the body to eliminate cancer cells or greatly reduce their effect. It targets cells that divide rapidly, a characteristic of most cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used to support and enhance other cancer treatment modalities.

If you are interested in learning more about colorectal cancer, or have questions not covered in this blog,  make sure to sign up for Dr. Bassel El-Rayes and Dr. Roberd Bostick’s colon cancer chat  tomorrow, March 20th (UPDATE – CHAT TRANSCRIPT). It’s bound to be a great discussion!

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

Related Resources:

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Colorectal Cancer Awareness MonthMarch is colorectal cancer month, and an article in the New York Times highlights the important role colonoscopies have played in reducing deaths from colorectal cancer. The study included patients tracked over 20 years after receiving a colonoscopy, which lead to the detection and removal of precancerous polyps, known as adenomatous polyps. Findings from the study show that the combination of a colonoscopy and polyp(s) removal lowered the colorectal death rate by 53 percent. While not all polyps turn into cancer, evidence shows that early detection and intervention are keys to survival. In the spirit of helping raise awareness around Colon Cancer and the importance of colonoscopies as a diagnostic and preventive tool, below you’ll find some helpful resources and important information about colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Statistics

According to the American Cancer Society, “excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.” That means in 2012, estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases that will be diagnosed in the United States are:

  • 103,170 new cases of colon cancer
  • 40,290 new cases of rectal cancer

But, if detected early enough, colorectal cancer is curable. So, how is colorectal cancer detected?

Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis

According to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, “colorectal cancer usually starts in the innermost layer of the lining and slowly progresses through the other layers.”  There are several ways of diagnosing colorectal cancer, but the most popular method is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a special type of cancer screening because it allows doctors to screen and intervene at the same time.

During a colonoscopy, the doctor will use a colonoscope, which is a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. They use this instrument to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum. If the doctor finds abnormalities such as polyps or growths, he or she can remove them right away while patients are under sedation. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to remove the suspicious looking areas before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

Colon Cancer Web Chat

According to Roberd Bostick, MD, MPH and a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, “most of the time, a colonoscopy is the most effective means for diagnosing [colorectal cancer].Certainly, if a person were to have symptoms that would be suggestive of colon cancer, then those symptoms might precipitate them wanting to have a diagnostic test, like a colonoscopy.”

For a full list of symptoms and risk factors of colorectal cancer, please see below. Watch the full video discussion with Roberd Bostick, MD, MPH. Also, bring your additional questions to Dr. Bassel El-Reyes and Dr. Roberd Bostick’s colon cancer chat on March 20th (UPDATE – CHAT TRANSCRIPT).

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor to be properly diagnosed and treated. It’s important to note that these symptoms may not necessarily be a result of colorectal cancer. Other health problems can produce similar symptoms, which is why it is important to contact your physician if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below:

  • Change in bowel habits:
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
    • Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
    • Finding your stools are narrower than usual
  • Frequent gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
  • Loss of weight for no apparent reason
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Nausea or vomiting

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

The main risk factors for colorectal cancer are uncontrollable. They are heredity, family history and personal medical history. Other risk factors include:

  • Presence of an inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)
  • Diabetes
  • Other controllable factors
    • Obesity
    • Red meat consumption
    • Processed meat consumption
    • Smoking
    • Alcohol consumption

Remember, early detection is the key to providing the best chance for a cure. It is important to contact your physician if you are experiencing symptoms or are at risk for colorectal cancer.  If your physician feels it’s appropriate, a screening test, such as a colonoscopy, will most likely be recommended to rule out the possibility of cancer.

With all this information, what can you do to stay healthy? Take action and make sure you are getting regularly screened! While a colonoscopy is bound to not be the most pleasant experience, it could potentially save your life by detecting colorectal cancer early when the disease is easier to cure.  If you are interested in learning more about colorectal cancer, make sure to check out the chat transcript the colorectal cancer chat.

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

Related Resources: