What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer refers to a cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. While cancers that start in either place may be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, respectively, they are often known collectively as colorectal cancer because of similarities between the cancers. 

Here’s what you need to know about colorectal cancer. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Scientists are not exactly sure what causes colorectal cancer. We do know that colorectal cancer begins when healthy cells’ DNA mutates. These cells can then overgrow and divide, creating tumors. Cancerous cells can also destroy healthy tissue and travel to other parts of the body and form deposits. However, there are several well-documented risk factors. These include being over 45, having diabetes, smoking, drinking alcohol, having a high-fat diet, having an inflammatory bowel disease, and having a family history of colon cancer or polyps. 

Types

Most colorectal cancers (around 96%) are Adenocarcinomas. This kind of cancer starts in mucus-producing cells which lubricate the colon and rectum. 

There are a few other kinds of colorectal cancers that are much more rare. Lymphomas, cancers of immune system cells, can start in the colon or rectum (although they typically start in lymph nodes). Carcinoid tumors start from hormone-producing cells in the intestine. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors start from cells in the colon wall, and while most are non-cancerous, some can be. 

Symptoms

It’s common for colorectal cancers to have few symptoms until they have advanced. There are some potential warning signs, but they may be indicators of other issues. These symptoms include lower abdominal pain, blood in stool, bloating, cramps, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and changes in bowel functions. As always, it’s best to consult a medical professional to determine what your symptoms are caused by. 

Diagnosis

The best way to cure colon cancer is to identify it at an early stage. However, since symptoms may not present early on, doctors recommend screenings for healthy people, usually beginning around age 50. People with more risk factors, as discussed above, may be advised to be screened at a younger age. 

A colonoscopy is one of the most common methods of screening. This involves using a scope to examine the inside of the colon. Your doctor can pass tools through the scope to take tissue samples if they see something suspicious. Biopsies of these tissue samples can help determine if cancer is present. Doctors also may remove polyps found during a colonoscopy to prevent them from becoming malignant. 

Treatment and Prevention

There are three main treatments for colorectal cancer- surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. These three treatment options are often used together in various combinations, depending on a patient’s situation. The best treatment options for each person depends on factors including overall health, the cancer’s stage, and whether the cancer is recurring. 

Localised, small, early-stage cancer in a polyp can be removed during a colonoscopy. A more invasive surgical procedure called a partial colectomy can remove the cancerous area of the colon and some surrounding healthy areas. This can prevent the cancer from growing back. Lymph nodes near the surgical site are removed and tested. Surgery can also be pursued to relieve symptoms and provide comfort for people in very poor conditions. 

Chemotherapy is another treatment option, often used after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells. If the cancer has spread beyond the colon lining, this may be recommended. 

Radiation therapy utilizes beams of intense energy to destroy cancer cells. Radiation may be utilized before surgery to reduce tumor sizes, or after surgery to kill off remaining cancer cells. 

Preventing colorectal cancer is extremely important, and it starts with screening (as discussed above). Additionally, you can reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer by avoiding smoking, reducing or avoiding alcohol consumption, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience helping people manage and treat colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

 

 

Mailing Your Poop Could Cost You

Breast cancer reared its ugly head in my 50th year. By the time a lumpectomy and radiation were over, I was in no mood, emotionally or financially, for a colonoscopy.

Then anesthesia failed when a dear friend went in for her first colonoscopy. The pain was so bad, it traumatized her – and scared me, so I again postponed having one of my own.

This fall, when I went in for my annual physical exam, my doctor, Holly Bermel, reminded me I was overdue for the procedure most of us 50 and over are prodded to get.

The good news, she said, was that she could order the in-home Cologuard test used by millions.

Sending one’s poop via UPS for testing is an odd experience, let me tell you. Stranger still is what has happened since.

In the medical community, Cologuard has generally been considered a good thing: It detects genetic mutations commonly seen in colon cancer and detects blood in the stool. Medicare and many private insurance plans cover the test if it’s performed once every three years.

But agreeing to that cheaper, easier DNA screening for colorectal cancer can cost consumers much more in the long run. If that test comes back positive, as mine did, some insurers and Medicare will no longer cover as a preventive service the colonoscopy that your doctor will inevitably order next.

Read More…

October’s MD Update: Dr. Jones Speaks “Going on Offense Against Cancer”

Our very own Dr. Whitney Jones graced the cover of MD-Update’s October issue.  Read about how he embraces preventative measures to beat colon cancer before it starts in the following article.

“We spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance. The problem is, we’re not spending enough on prevention.”— Whitney Jones, MD

 In the movie “Karate Kid,” there’s a scene where Mr. Miyagi asks the title character if he’s training to fight. In his light bulb moment, the student responds that he trains, “So I won’t have to fight.”

Make no mistake, Whitney Jones, MD, knows how to treat cancer. He’s trained for it and has years of experience in it. But it’s a fight he would prefer doesn’t take place.

“We’re going on offense against cancer,” says Jones, a gastroenterologist at Gastroenterology Health Partners (GHP) in Louisville. “We are working on becoming the number one state and the first in the nation to develop programs where we can use genetic testing. We spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance. The problem is, we’re not spending enough on prevention. The cost of cancer treatments totally overwhelms the cost of prevention.”

That has been the central message and purpose of the Kentucky Colon Cancer Prevention Project, which Jones helped found in 2004. The project’s work includes education, advocacy, survivor support, and health system change.

“It put the work of the state in front of the legislature,” Jones says, noting that a diverse group of leaders from across the state formed the project’s advisory committee. “It added a mix of healthcare, politics, and business that was catalytic.”

The project has received state funding as well as additional funding from the Kentucky Cancer Foundation, which Jones also helped found in 2012. “We have helped pay for a lot of uninsured people to get colorectal cancer screening,” Jones says.

The impact of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project is reflected in the state’s improvement versus the rest of the country. Jones notes that Kentucky ranked 49th out of 50 in the nation in colon cancer prevention statistics when the project was launched. The state also had the highest rates of incidence and mortality in the nation. Earlier this year, Kentucky ranked 17th best in the nation in the same colon cancer related categories and earned an American Cancer Society Achievement Award for the most improved state in the nation for colorectal screening over the past 15 years.

“When we started our work at the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, there was a huge gap between what could be done and what we were doing,” Jones says. “It’s been a broad coalition, including many of our state leaders and city officials. I think it’s proven that Kentucky can address its own problems, we can develop solutions, we can implement them locally, and we can save lives and save money.”

Read the full article here:

2019 Kicking Butt 5K

Join us Saturday, August 24th at at the beautiful Big Four Bridge on Waterfront Park in Louisville, Kentucky for the 2019 Kicking Butt 5k!

This annual family friendly event is put on by the Colon Cancer Prevention Project whose mission it is to eliminate preventable colon cancer death and suffering. Participants are encouraged to spend the morning walking, strolling, running, and rolling to a world without colon cancer! Whether you’re a survivor, fighter, advocate, healthcare provider or community partner, all are welcome!

You can donate to the cause or register for the event online. The race starts at 8:30am with day of registration beginning at 7:30am.

Kicking Butt 5k

About the Colon Cancer Prevention Project

Our very own Dr. Whitney Jones founded the Colon Cancer Prevention Project in 2004. Since then, colon cancer is down more than 25% in the state of Kentucky. The project works to bring awareness to what is a highly preventable disease as well as offer support to those fighting it.

While colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of all cancer deaths in the United States, when it is detected early, colon cancer is up to 90% curable. According to the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, “It is estimated that 6 out of 10 (60%) deaths from colon cancer could be prevented if everyone were screened at 50.” However, even young people are at risk for developing the disease. 1 in every 10 patients diagnosed are under the age of 50.

How to Take Action

Prevent colon cancer by talking to your doctor about the right time to get screened. It is recommended that men and women of average risk should start screenings by age 50. However, those with a family history or symptoms may need to be screened sooner. Don’t be afraid to ask your family if they’ve been screened as doing so could save their life.

The Gastroenterology Health Partners proudly sponsors the 2019 Kicking Butt 5k. Get screened and schedule an appointment by contacting us today!

National Clinical Alert Part 3: Preventing Young Adult Colorectal Cancer

Health care providers can aid in young adult colorectal cancer prevention by taking steps to educate the public on the rising rate of colorectal cancer found in people under the age of 55. For example, patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer prior to the age of 55 are 58% more likely than older patients to be diagnosed with a more advanced stage of the disease. This is in large part due to a general lack of awareness of young onset colorectal cancer.

The following are important actions steps health care providers can take in preventing young adult colorectal cancer:

1. Be Informative About Basic Digestive Health

Educating patients on the basics of digestive health should be part of regular office visits, especially yearly exams. Patients should understand what and where the colon is and know to take symptoms seriously should they experience them. For example, rectal bleeding and blood in the stool is never normal. Such symptoms require further assessment by a doctor to determine the root cause.

2. Relaying the Risk Factors

Patients should also be made aware of the risk factors associated with having a family history of colorectal cancer and or advanced colorectal polyps. Assessing one’s family history is critical in determining one’s risk for developing colorectal cancer themselves. Those at an increased risk may be eligible for more frequent colorectal screenings at an earlier age than others.

3. The Importance of Early Assessments

Patients at any age that are presenting symptoms or signs of colorectal cancer should be referred for diagnostic evaluation immediately and be given an early assessment with their physical exam. If found and treated early, colorectal cancer has a 90% survival rate.

To schedule an appointment or refer a patient, contact the Gastro Health Partners location nearest you today.

 

Young Adult Colorectal Cancer National Clinical Alert Part 2: The Importance of Family History

Assessing one’s family history of colorectal cancer and polyps (especially advanced polyps) is critical in determining whether or not one is at an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer themselves. Those at an increased risk may be eligible for more frequent colorectal screenings at an earlier age than others.

 

Patients with these family history indicators need to be referred for diagnostic evaluation. To schedule an appointment, contact the Gastro Health Partners location nearest you today.

Young Adult Colorectal Cancer National Clinical Alert: Part 1

The rate of young adult colorectal cancer has been on the rise in the United States since the mid-1980s. Adults born in the 1990s (now in their 20s) and beyond have double the lifetime risk of colon cancer, and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer, compared to adults born in the 1950s. Currently, approximately 20% of all colorectal cancer cases diagnosed in the United States are patients under the age of 55.

Unfortunately, patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer prior to the age of 55 are 58% more likely than older patients to be diagnosed with a more advanced stage of the disease (stage III or IV). This is due to a delay in diagnostic evaluation of symptoms and less access to medical care. Delays in diagnosis, late stage presentation, and limited access to care all contribute to an increase of mortality for young adult colorectal cancer patients. Both the increasing incidence and mortality of young adult colorectal cancer are in sharp contrast to the overall declines in incidence & mortality observed in people over the age of 55.

Patients with these symptoms and signs need to be referred for diagnostic evaluation. To schedule an appointment, contact the Gastro Health Partners location nearest you today.

Dr. Abdul Jabbar on Saving Lives with Colon Screenings

According to Gastro Health Partner physician Dr. Abdul Jabbar, “When you look at a colon cancer map of the USA, you’ll be surprised to see that along the Ohio river, specifically over Clark and Floyd county, there are significantly higher incidences of colon cancer.” This is due in large part to the region’s lifestyle. A lack of exercise, high obesity rates, excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use and a diet high in processed red meat and low in fibrous fruits and vegetables can lead to colorectal cancer. 

Having recently sat down with Baptist Health Floyd for one of their Health Topics episodes, Dr. Jabbar is quick to point out how colon screenings can save lives. “A colonoscopy is one of the best tools available,” he says. With timely colon screenings, the rate of colorectal cancer mortality in the area has decreased as much as 53%. 

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is done using a colonoscope which is a flexible tube with a camera attached to it. This allows physicians to look inside the organ without doing any surgery. A colonoscopy is minimally invasive with minimal sedation required, and can be completed within 10 to 30 minutes.

The procedure helps to identify polyps that either are cancerous or could potentially turn cancerous. These polyps are then removed and the patient’s care is expedited. To schedule a colonoscopy, contact the Gastro Health Partners location nearest you today.

Watch the full episode of Dr. Abdul Jabbar on Baptist Health Floyd’s Heath Topics here:

Dr. Abdul Jabbar joined Gastroenterology of Southern Indiana in 2006. He earned his medical degree from Nishtar Medical College in Pakistan. For one year he served as Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before completing his Internal Medicine Internship and Residency at Columbia University teaching program in Summit, New Jersey. He received his dual Fellowship training in Gastroenterology & Hepatology at the University of Louisville, followed by additional training in hepatology and endoscopic ultrasound. Prior to moving to Southern Indiana, Dr. Jabbar served as Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Gastroenterology at the University of Louisville. Dr. Jabbar is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

 

National Clinical Alert Issued on Early Age Onset Colorectal Cancer

Dr. Whitney Jones was recently featured in an Oncology Nursing News article about how to educate the public about early age onset colorectal cancer.

The article makes note of a national clinical alert co-authored by Dr. Jones urging healthcare providers to get creative about sharing the signs, symptoms and statistics associated with early age onset colorectal cancer.

The national clinical alert is not intended to be limited to just those in the field of gastroenterology. OB-GYNs, as well as those in surgical specialties, adult and pediatric primary care, family and internal medicine, emergency and urgent care departments, occupational medicine, community health centers, and departments of health and healthcare systems worldwide are encouraged to raise awareness about the growing disease.

According to the Colon Cancer Prevention Project founded by Dr. Jones himself, “10% of people diagnosed with colon cancer are under the age of 50 and that number is rising.” When it comes to early age onset colorectal cancer, one’s family history plays a significant role. While everyone is at risk for developing the disease, those with a family history of it are at an even greater risk.

Being knowledgeable about one’s family health history can help to determine the proper time to start screening. On time screening saves lives by detecting and removing polyps in the colon or rectum before they turn into cancer. A screening can also find colon cancer early on, when it is most treatable. The Colon Cancer Prevention Project states that, “when detected early, colon cancer is up to 90% curable.” As an additional preventive measure, healthcare providers are encouraged by the national clinical alert to start implementing early assessments during physical exams as well as cover the basics of digestive health with their patients. 

Talk to your doctor about the right time to get screened by contacting us today.

Read the full article here:

The Colon Cancer Prevention Project

While many know that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America, few are aware that it is also one of the most preventable. In an effort to educate the population about colon cancer prevention, our very own gastroenterologist Dr. Whitney Jones founded the Colon Cancer Prevention Project in 2003.

As a state-based advocacy organization, the Colon Cancer Prevention Project leads the nation in information on colon cancer prevention. Since its establishment, the Colon Cancer Prevention Project has helped to double Kentucky’s screening rates. It is also responsible for cutting the state’s colon cancer mortality rates by 28%.

“Although 50 has been tagged as the time to start your screening, it shouldn’t be the first time you hear about colon cancer,” says Dr. Jones. Knowing the facts can help people determine the right time to get screened. Simply having  a conversation with your family about their history of having polyps removed can save your life.

For example, for those of average risk, age 50 is acceptable. However, for those with a family history of polyp removal, screening as early as 10 years before their family member’s diagnosis could be critical in preventing cancer from developing.  

A “previvor” as the project calls it, is someone who was screened on time. As a result, they found precancerous polyps that were removed before they turned into colon cancer. Hear from real life “previvors” on why you should take ownership of your own health in the video below. Talk to your doctor about the right time to get screened by contacting us today. 

Watch & Save a Life:

Dr. Whitney Jones is a practicing Gastroenterologist, former therapeutic endoscopist and Clinical Professor at the University of Louisville from 1994 until 2017. He joined GHP in 2017 cofounding its new east Louisville division, Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Associates, PLLC, alongside Drs. Ashok Kapur and Laszlo Makk.