WVU Physicians Stress Importance of Screening to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

MORGANTOWN, WV— According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 1,210 new colorectal cancer cases in West Virginia in 2007 resulting in 480 estimated deaths.

Colorectal cancer is highly preventable. West Virginia University physicians encourage you to ask your doctor about screening today, in observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness month during March.

Colorectal cancer is one of the four most common cancers in West Virginia. According to the West Virginia Cancer Registry it is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among men and third among women. 

“We are strongly urging adults 50 and older to discuss the importance of screening with their family doctor,” said Sobha Kurian, M.D., a hematologist oncologist at the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. “Early detection saves lives.”

Kurian adds that many of the colorectal cancer patients at the Cancer Center seek treatment when their disease is at an advanced stage, greatly reducing the chance of a cure. “It doesn’t have to be that way, if people would simply get screened.”

There are various tests for colon cancer, including fecal occult blood test (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy and double contrast barium enema.

“Colonoscopy is the “gold standard,” says Uma Sundaram, M.D., section chief of Digestive Diseases at WVU. “It is the most sensitive test currently available to detect abnormalities of the colon and rectum.”

West Virginia’s colorectal cancer screening rates are lower than the national average. While more than half of all Americans 50 and older have had a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy, less than half of West Virginians have had one of the procedures. 

“Many people are reluctant to schedule a colonoscopy because they believe it will be uncomfortable,” said Cristina Demian, M.D., program manager of the West Virginia Colorectal Cancer Initiative.  The program seeks to increase colorectal cancer screening rates at the recommended intervals.

Demian adds that many West Virginians do not understand their personal risk for colorectal cancer, and ignore their doctors’ recommendation to be screened.  Seventy-five percent of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in people without a family history of the disease.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) the nation’s overall health care system is improving, but the use of proven prevention strategies lags significantly behind other gains in health care. It points out that only about 52 percent of adults reported receiving recommended colorectal cancer screenings.

WVU physicians who specialize in colorectal cancer and other digestive diseases provide comprehensive care including diagnosis, screening and treatment.  However, a patient needs to consult his or her family doctor before being referred to a specialist.

Educational information about screening for colorectal cancer is available throughout March at various locations at WVU, including the Clark K. Sleeth Family Medicine Center, the Medical Center Pharmacy, and the cafeteria entrances at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center and Ruby Memorial Hospital. 

- WVU -

For more information:
Steve Bovino, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
sls: 02-28-07

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