Colon cancer has a 90 percent survival rate if caught early. The problem is, not enough people are getting screened. According to a report distributed by the American Cancer Society (ACS), Nevada ranks 48th in the nation for colorectal cancer screening.
“I don’t think people realize colon cancer is so easily curable especially compared to other cancers,” said Dr. John Gray, of Gastroenterology Consultants in Reno. “As far as early screening, that’s a huge message that I would love to get out. People just don’t understand it’s so much easier to screen for this than to go through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.”
To help offset the Nevada statistic, Gray and Dr. William Pfau, of Digestive Health Associates, and Renown Institute for Cancer are emphasizing a colonoscopy as the best choice for screening every 10 years. However, for those who may forgo a colonoscopy due to fear or embarrassment, they suggest the easy-to-use at-home Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), as the next best choice for screening every year.
The $20 FIT kit is a home screening for annual colon cancer detection. It can be done in the privacy of the home in about 10 minutes and tests for signs of colon cancer. The kits are offered with no physician referral required and can be requested by visiting www.renown.org/fittest.
In fact, Gray, Pfau and Renown Institute for Cancer are so passionate about the need for colon cancer screening they’ve stepped out of their comfort zone to produce a cliché-type rap video to spread the word. The idea is that if people can sing or dance about something, they can talk about it. And if they can talk about it, they can do something about it.
“I know this topic’s funky and it might make you blush, but the process is as easy as a swish and a flush,” Gray rapped. “Swish and a flush, swish and a flush, the FIT screening is a must.”
The “swish and a flush” chorus, as promoted in the video, means “swishing” a small wand-like piece of plastic around in the toilet bowl to obtain the specimen and then inserting that into a tube and sending off to the lab for analysis. Results should be returned in approximately two weeks.
“This is a topic that people don’t really like to talk about and we’re trying to bring a little light-heartedness to it,” Pfau said. “The reality is that early screening can save lives.”
In 2008, the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) published updated guidelines for colorectal cancer screening. ACG recommends either a colonoscopy every 10 years or an annual FIT screening as the preferred test for colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 50. African Americans should begin screenings at age 45. Patients with a family history should speak with their doctor about a different screening schedule.
The new ACG guidelines list FIT as a preferred strategy because it has more extensive data than the guaiac-based Hemoccult SENSA test, and because fecal DNA testing is expensive, the guidelines note.
This screening detects cancers and polyps more successfully than older and more widely used stool-screening tests. Key patient benefits of the test include:
•More convenient for patients because it is easy to complete in the privacy of your own home
•Only one sample required, as opposed to three consecutive samples with previous tests
•Higher sensitivity resulting in fewer false readings
•No dietary or medication restrictions required
Renown Institute for Cancer is the only healthcare network in the region to retain all three cancer accreditations including the region’s first and only Radiation Oncology Accreditation, earned in January, 2011; the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, earned in February 2011; and the region’s first Comprehensive Cancer Program Accreditation, which the institute has held for more than 23 years. These three accreditations are the most any cancer program of this size can attain in the region.
Renown Institute for Cancer is the largest healthcare provider in the area conducting clinical trials with the National Cancer Institute. Clinical trials allow patients to be on leading trends in medicine and often times they become involved in that “next big discovery” for cancer treatments. Leading northern Nevada in cancer research, Renown Institute for Cancer has administered more than 135 trials to 870 participants.
Whether individuals have been referred, are currently receiving treatment or are seeking a second opinion, they can make an appointment at Renown Institute for Cancer anytime. The team of skilled professionals brings expertise and comprehensive resources to patient care. For general inquiries, call 982-6830 or visit www.renown.org.