Northwestern Memorial physicians encourage screenings during colon cancer awareness month


Northwestern Cancer Center kicks-off the month by welcoming the Super Colon

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are encouraging Chicagoans to know their family history and get screened.

To help kick-off Colon Cancer Awareness Month and educate patients about the risks, symptoms, prevention, early detection and treatment options for colorectal cancer, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University will host the first stop on the national tour of the Super Colon, an 8-foot tall, 20-foot long replica of a human colon.

"Having the Super Colon at Northwestern Memorial will allow the community to learn about colon cancer in an interactive way and really drive home the message that the only way to prevent or treat colon cancer is to get screened," says Jeffrey Wayne, MD, a surgical oncologist at Northwestern Memorial and assistant professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

The Super Colon will be open to the public on March 9 and 10 from 9 a.m. 5 p.m. on the third floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 250 E. Huron.

"Colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if caught in its early stages," says Amy Halverson, MD, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Northwestern Memorial and an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Men and women over the age of 50 should be screened, especially those who have a family history of colon cancer. Women who have a history of endometrial or ovarian cancer have a greater risk of developing colon cancer and should also be screened."

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 60,000 Americans will die this year from colon cancer. In the state of Illinois alone, it is estimated that nearly 7,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and more than 2,500 will die. Colon cancer screenings lag far behind screenings for other cancers such as breast, cervical and prostate. Colorectal cancer remains the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States even though if found and treated at an early stage, the opportunity to cure it is 90 percent or better.

Screenings are used to reveal the presence of polyps, which are growths of tissue projecting from the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some polyps are more dangerous than others, but most are benign if removed early.

Men and women who are not at increased risk of colon cancer should begin getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer by age 50. "I recommend colonoscopies because they provide the least amount of discomfort, the physician can see the entire colon and they only need to be done once every ten years," says Dr. Halverson. Colonoscopy uses a flexible, slender tube that contains a micro video camera at its tip to detect polyps or other suspicious matter. The colonoscope not only allows identification and localization of the disease process, but also allows biopsy or even removal of polyps.

Steven Stryker, MD, a gastrointestinal surgeon at Northwestern Memorial specializing in colon cancer, and an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, believes that many patients avoid screenings because they think having colon cancer will mean having a colostomy bag for the rest of their lives. When colorectal cancer is discovered, surgery is almost always the preferred treatment. However, Dr. Stryker wants to spread the word that colorectal cancer surgery hardly ever requires a permanent colostomy as in years past. "Our goal is to always preserve normal function as well as to perform a potentially life-saving surgery," says Dr. Stryker. "Without proper education as to state-of -the -art treatment options currently available, many patients are more afraid of the surgical procedure than of the disease itself."

For more information or to schedule a screening, please call 312.926.8400.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.