What You Don’t Know About Colorectal Cancer Can Kill You

Every year, more than 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.  Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Ninety percent of colon cancers occur in people age 50 or older.

The good news is that this disease is highly preventable when caught early. That’s when treatment can be most effective.  In recognition of March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing the latest news and innovations in diagnosis and treatment.  These new advanced screening techniques and treatments for colorectal and other gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are helping physicians to save more lives.

“We get our patients into the system very quickly and start the process by performing all diagnostic procedures within the same week of referral.  Our patients have access to a comprehensive range of technology under one roof – an advantage available only at select endoscopic centers in the United States,” says Nirav Thosani, M.D., M.H.A., who holds the Atilla Ertan Chair in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.  He is also director of advanced endoscopy at the Ertan Digestive Disease Center at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

Advanced endoscopic technology at the Ertan Digestive Disease Center includes:

  • Volumetric Laser Endomicroscopy (VLE) – for early detection of esophageal cancer within Barrett’s esophagus
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) with elastography for detection and staging of various GI cancers
  • Cholangioscopy and Pancreatoscopy for detection of pancreaticobiliary cancers
  • Double-balloon endoscopy for diagnosis of small bowel tumors
  • Chromoendoscopy for the diagnosis of early-stage colon cancers

 A Team Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment

Taking a team approach helps expedite diagnosis and ensure patients are treated in a timely manner.  “A cytopathologist is available during each EUS-guided biopsy for detection and staging of various GI cancers  to review the sample and provide an immediate diagnosis, a patient benefit available only at specialized centers,” Dr. Thosani says.  “This practice prevents unnecessary repeat procedures due to inadequate sampling of the tumor and it also ensures that patients receive timely care.”

Gastroenterologists affiliated with the Ertan Center work in close collaboration with their medical oncology, pathology and surgical oncology colleagues in treating patients in a timely manner.  Affiliated medical oncologist Julie Rowe, M.D., and her partner Putao Cen, M.D., see patients soon after a biopsy is completed to plan and begin treatment at the Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Texas Medical Center.

“The service we provide patients is unique in that they have access to every provider they’ll need once they’re in our system. The fact that we’re all located on the same floor in the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza in the Texas Medical Center makes it very convenient for patients,” says Dr. Rowe.

“We educate patients on what to expect of their treatment and have a dedicated GI team that includes physicians, nurses and medical assistants as well as a genetic counselor and oncology-certified pharmacists,” adds Dr. Rowe.  “Before treatment begins, each patient’s case is reviewed by a multidisciplinary gastrointestinal tumor board.”

Affiliated gastroenterologists at the Ertan Center perform minimally invasive endoscopic procedures such as radiofrequency ablation of Barrett’s esophagus as well as pancreatiocobiliary tumors, endoscopic mucosal resection and endoscopic submucosal dissection for treatment of early GI cancers.

“These diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are performed by less than 2 percent of gastroenterologists in the Houston area,” Dr. Thosani says.  “If patients require additional care, they have the full support of a top-ranked hospital in the Texas Medical Center.  Our goal is to provide excellence in clinical care with compassion, grounded in cutting-edge research in gastroenterology and hepatology.”

Act Now to Reduce Your Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several things you can do now to help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.  Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight, don’t drink too much alcohol, don’t smoke and get screened.

If you’re age 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly.  If you’re between 76 and 85, ask your doctor if you should be screened.

If you’re under 50, you could be at risk for colorectal cancer if you have inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps, a genetic syndrome such as familiar adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome). Check with your doctor to see what screenings he or she recommends.

Register for Free Cancer Connect Event at The Health Museum.

Learn more about cancer risks and the importance of early detection by attending our free Cancer Connect event at The Health Museum in Houston on March 14, 2017.  Hear from an educational panel of specialists, visit the cancer resource fair and talk with physicians inside the museum’s Body Worlds RX exhibit.  It’s free but registration is required.

Click here to register.

To find a physician or to schedule an appointment, click here.


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Tashika Varma