Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Haunting Memories When Screening Doesn’t Work

I had the opportunity earlier this week to participate in a Twitter chat on the topic of colorectal cancer awareness. The chat was intended to bring attention to a nationwide campaign called “80 by 2018” designed to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% of the population over the next 4 years. If it is successful, we should see a decline in both incidence and deaths from this disease.

But I am haunted by two of the comments I tweeted during the session chat that won’t leave my conscience:

“As a doc, you don’t forget the patients you couldn’t help. And you celebrate those you did. #CRCawareness is key #80by2018

“Let’s remember that screening doesn’t help everyone, so don’t forget the need for more research in understanding #CRC #80by2018

While we celebrate the opportunity to save more lives with screening, we cannot ignore or forget those for whom screening for colorectal cancer (or other cancers, for that matter) couldn’t or didn’t make a difference. [more]

Let me share a couple of stories with you. These are obviously people I have remembered over the years and who have had a continued impact for me personally.

The first person … Continue reading →

Progress In Colorectal Cancer Not Shared By Everyone

An article published this week in the American Cancer Society journal CA: A Journal for Clinicians received a lot of media attention. The report showed dramatic declines in the rate of people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, as well as decreases in the rates of colorectal cancer deaths over the past number of years.

But the press didn’t say much about the fact that not everyone has benefitted from the progress we have made in the prevention, early detection, and improved treatment for colorectal cancer. It is a sad but very real commentary on how we approach health care in this country that African Americans have not benefitted equally from this progress in treating a cancer that for many people can be prevented or effectively treated when found before it spreads to other parts of the body.

As a nation, I believe it is incumbent that we address this glaring health disparity. To do less is unacceptable. [more]

Here are some examples from the research report:

1)      During 2006 to 2010, colorectal cancer incidence rates in blacks were approximately 25% higher than those in whites, and 50% higher than those of Asian-Pacific Islander descent

2)      A larger disparity exists Continue reading →

It Helps To Know What Watchful Waiting Really Means In Prostate Cancer Treatment

News reports covering a prostate cancer study this week in the New England Journal of Medicine have all pretty much come out with the same message: men diagnosed with prostate cancer who had radical surgery did much better than men who were assigned to “watchful waiting” after they were diagnosed.

But guess what? There’s a critical fact that seemed to be missing in much of the coverage I saw. And that fact is this: the men who were given the “watchful waiting” as described in the study never received any curative treatment. Let me repeat: No curative treatment. That is a much different approach to watchful waiting than we currently recommend in the United States, where watchful waiting after a diagnosis of prostate cancer usually means offering curative treatment when the prostate cancer changes its behavior. [more]

The study was performed in Sweden, Iceland and Finland. Between 1989 and 1999, 695 men were entered into the study after they were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Half were assigned to undergo a radical surgical removal of the prostate gland, and half were assigned to “watchful waiting.” Now, watchful waiting today means we watch, and if a patient’s prostate cancer changes its characteristics, … Continue reading →