Queens Medical Associates Offers Education in Recognition of March Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

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Queens oncology and hematology center shares insight on protecting from colon cancer

Dr. Barry Kaplan, M.D., PhD

Due to advances in screening techniques and improvements in treatments, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been falling,

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and, in recognition, Queens Medical Associates, is implementing a community outreach program to educate the public on the disease, signs to look for, new screening tools and available treatment.

Dr. Barry Kaplan, president and founder of the medical practice, which specializes in the care of patients with oncologic and hematologic conditions notes, “Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. However, due to advances in screening techniques and improvements in treatments, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been falling,” he explains.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon and the rectum.

Signs, symptoms of colorectal cancer

Many of the symptoms of colorectal cancer can also be caused by something that isn’t cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. In most cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it is a sign that you should go to the doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed:

  •     A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  •     A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  •     Rectal bleeding
  •     Dark stools, or blood in the stool
  •     Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  •     Weakness and fatigue
  •     Unintended weight loss

Because colorectal cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until it is advanced, the American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal cancer screening for most people starting at age 50.

Risk Factors and colonoscopies
When colorectal cancer is found early, before it has spread, the 5-year relative survival rate is 90%. This means 9 out of 10 people with early-stage cancer survive at least 5 years. But if the cancer has had a chance to spread outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.

Experts still say the best way to screen for colon cancer and prevent the disease is to have a colonoscopy test every ten years, but more often particularly if you have any of these risk factors:

  •     A family history of colon cancer
  •     A previous diagnosis
  •     Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  •     A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  •     Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include—

o    Lack of regular physical activity
o    A diet low in fruit and vegetables
o    A low-fiber and high-fat diet
o    Overweight and obesity
o    Excessive alcohol consumption
o    Tobacco use

New Screening Technologies - At-Home Screening Test for Colon Cancer

Testing oneself for colon cancer is now easier and more accurate. There are new do-it-yourself kits that enables individuals to collect your stool sample in the privacy of your home, which was approved by the FDA in 2014. Once a doctor orders the test, a kit is shipped to a person’s home, a stool sample must be collected and mailed to a lab in a prepaid, pre-addressed box. The lab sends results to your doctor within two weeks.

The new at-home screening test looks for DNA cell changes linked to cancer. This test is approved only for patients without the increased risk factors noted above. Tests for blood in the stool remain another standard screening test.

Treatment options, if diagnosed

Colon cancer is preventable if pre-cancerous polyps are found and removed. If an individual is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, treatment depends on how early it is found, but may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. “There is no longer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to cancer treatment,” explains Dr. Kaplan. “The staff at Queens Medical Associates seeks to pave the way for truly personalized cancer treatment which can have a profound impact on prognosis and improved outcomes.”

Queens Medical Associates (QMA) is a well-established physician practice and infusion center which provides hematology and medical oncology care for patients with cancer and blood disorders. Located in Fresh Meadows, New York, QMA’s physicians and clinical staff bring decades of experience providing exceptional care and treatment. Approximately 300 patients are served daily translating into over 200 treatments. QMA’s team members communicate in five official languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Russian). The practice also offers infusion therapy for many conditions including Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and organ transplants. For more information about Queens Medical Associates, visit http://www.queensmedical.com/.

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Andi Hughes
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