|Advances in Joint Surgery|
|Ambulatory Care Centers - Natick and Walpole|
|As We Age: Balance and Falls|
|Awards & Recognition - Autumn 2012|
|Awards & Recognition - Summer 2012|
|Children and Concussions|
|Exercise for Cancer Prevention and Recovery|
|Newton-Wellesley Outpatient Surgery Center|
|Nutrition and Cancer Prevention|
|Personalized Medicine at the Vernon Cancer Center|
|Screening for Colon Cancer|
|Waltham Urgent Care Center|
Screening for Colon Cancer
A Leading Cause of Cancer-Related Death
“Many cases of colon cancer begin as small groups of noncancerous cells called polyps,” says Richard Curtis, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology at Newton-Wellesley. “Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, we recommend regular, preventive screening tests to identify polyps before they become cancer.”
“We have state-of-the-art tools available for our patients,” says Dr. Curtis. “We are one of a few hospitals in the state certified by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and work to keep current with the latest innovations and technology in the field.”
The Unit provides advanced services and uses the latest technology to manage each patient’s GI needs. This comprehensive care includes diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy; management of inflammatory bowel disease in adults (see sidebar); diagnosis and management of malignant disease; proctology (disorders of the rectum and anus); diagnosis and management of incontinence; and management of stomal problems.
This life-saving procedure screens for colorectal cancer by allowing the physician to see inside the colon and test abnormal areas. A colonoscopy is an internal examination of the colon and rectum, using an instrument called a colonoscope. The colonoscope has a small camera attached to a flexible tube that can examine the entire length of the colon. During the exam, the physician is able to view the colon through the camera. If necessary, tissue samples may be taken with tiny biopsy forceps inserted through the scope. Polyps may also be removed with electrocautery snares. The GI Unit offers all types of anesthesia to make patients as comfortable as possible during the procedure.
“Approximately 30 percent of these screenings will show meaningful abnormalities such as polyps. Removal of these polyps results in a lower risk of colon cancer,” says Dr. Curtis. “Our multidisciplinary team works together to provide the most advanced screening techniques as well as surgical and oncology services, if needed by the patient.”
“We use endoscopic ultrasound to learn more about the nature of the tumor and to determine how it should be treated,” says Dr. Curtis. “Staging cancer is becoming an important use of endoscopic ultrasound. This procedure can provide very crucial information regarding the depth of the cancer and the spread of cancer to adjacent tissues and lymph nodes.”
Collaboration with the Vernon Cancer Center
“Patients with abnormal colonoscopies or colon cancer are able to continue their care in one, convenient location,” says Dr. Curtis. “We offer a combined, seamless team approach using all the capabilities of our colorectal surgeons and our oncologists, who provide the latest cancer treatments.”
The expert team at the Vernon Cancer Center utilizes various cancer treatment methods including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as well as cutting-edge treatments now available by looking at the cell biology of a tumor. Having a better understanding of cancer cells allows oncologists at the Cancer Center to deliver personalized cancer treatment.
“Colon cancer is curable in early stages,” says Revati Rao, MD, Oncologist at the Vernon Cancer Center at Newton-Wellesley. “Screening by colonoscopy plays a critical role in detecting early cancers. At the Cancer Center, we utilize surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, which can all play a role in colon cancer treatment.”
The Center works closely with our Pathology Department at the Hospital to determine whether or not certain cancer cells have specific mutations that can be treated with new drugs that are tailored to specifically target the tumor cells. Testing for a specific mutation in colon cancers helps determine the 60 percent of these cancers that respond well to a targeted drug. Testing on this mutation is currently being done at Newton-Wellesley for all recurrent colon cancers.
“Drug development has changed the management of metastatic colon cancer,” adds Dr. Rao. “As survival data is improving with each new drug, the disease is now a chronic illness for many patients. Molecular testing has also added a clinical benefit by offering patients personalized treatment.”
Screening Patients Saves Lives
According to Dr. Curtis, screening for colorectal cancer saves lives. There is no single cause of colon cancer, but family history, colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, immunodeficiency disorders and other cancers are contributing factors. “Regular screening for colorectal cancer and knowing your family history can help prevent a cancer diagnosis,” adds Dr. Curtis. “I recommend that everyone age 50 and above take preventive measures and be screened.”
Once a patient undergoes a colonoscopy and the screening results are normal, he recommends a follow-up screening every 10 years. However, patients with additional risk factors for colorectal cancer (family history of colorectal cancer, history of polyps and increasing age) or an abnormal initial colonoscopy or other screening test should be screened every three to five years.
“It is my hope that we continue to create awareness about the importance of screening for colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Curtis. “Newton-Wellesley Hospital is a convenient location for patients. We have highly-trained, experienced physicians that make the screening process as easy as possible. This is a cancer that can be prevented and we want to help people understand their risks and prevent future illness.”
Richard Curtis, MD