Answering Your Colon Cancer Questions with Dr. Jiang

A new study released by the National Cancer Institute shows colon and rectal cancers have increased dramatically and steadily in young and middle-age adults in the United States over the past four decades. Dr. Yixing Jiang, a Medical Oncologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, answers all the questions you’re now asking yourself about colon cancer.

Q. What are the risk factors for colon cancer?

A. The risks for developing colon cancer are: obesity; insulin resistance diabetes, red and processed meat; tobacco; alcohol; family history of colorectal cancer; certain hereditary syndromes (such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)); certain genetic mutations (APC mutation); inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease); being a patient long-term immune suppression (transplant patients) and a history of abdominal radiation.

Q. Who had always been traditionally has always been at risk for colon cancer?

A. Most colorectal cancer happens sporadically. But patients with familial syndromes (FAP or Lynch syndrome), inflammatory bowel disease, certain genetic mutations, a family history of colon cancer or a history of polyos are at higher risk of developing colon cancer.

Q. What’s the best way to protect myself against colon cancer?

A. To reduce the risk of colon cancer, exercise regularly; eat less red meat, eand eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, fruits, fibers, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids.  Asprin and NSAIDs been shown a degree of protection against colon cancer. Of course, the best way of preventing colon cancer is screening with a colonoscopy.

Q. What’s the best screening tool for colon cancer?

A. The screening guidelines varies depending on the recommending agencies. For example, the Center for Disease Control recommends the following: For average general population, the recommendation is to start screening colonoscopy every 10 years at age of 50; fecal occult blood test annually and flex sigmoidoscopy every 3 years. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening between the ages of 50 and 75.

The most used screening test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy.

Q. Is colon cancer treatable? What’s the best treatment options?

A. Colon cancer is a very treatable disease if discovered early. For stage I cancer, surgery cures more than 90% of patients. For patients with a more advanced stage cancer, surgery alone is usually not enough. Additional chemotherapy is generally required to increase the chance of a cure. Today, with more therapies available and better surgical techniques, we are able to cure close to 30% patients with stage IV disease.

For more information on diagnosing and treating colon cancer, please visit UMGCCC’s website, umgccc.org. 

Colon Cancer Diagnosis Turns Runner Into Motivated Fundraiser

By Steve Berry

Mindy, Steve and Ashley
Steve Berry, with his wife Mindy (left) and Ashley Kelso, who is running for Steve.

Update: Steve’s colon cancer surgery on April 16 went well. His doctor told him there is no sign of cancer in his body, and that he does not need further treatment. As for the Maryland Half Marathon, Steve plans to attend the race — for which he’s raised more than $2,100 for the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center — and hopes to begin running again soon.

Last fall, my wife Mindy and I started running to get in better shape. To help our motivation and improve our technique, we joined an introductory running class at Fleet Feet in Annapolis. We discovered running with a group not only is a motivator but makes it fun, and the support is incredible.

We ran with our group through the winter – including the Snowmageddon event in February. We noticed we were losing weight and in general felt better. We ran three times a week, then four and sometimes we made it to five. The members of the group supported and encouraged each other. If one did not show the others would ask him why. We stuck with it, and the graduation ceremony from class was a 5K fun run in February. The Maryland Half Marathon was waiting at the finish line, and in a moment of runner’s high I signed us up.

I will admit there was no philanthropic motivation for running the race. The fundraiser for the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center was incidental. We would try to raise a little money, but our main purpose in running was to keep motivated to train. Having a goal is a great incentive. How ironic that just a few weeks after signing up our lives, and motivation for the run, would be turned upside down.

On March 25 I was shockingly diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery is scheduled for today. Unfortunately, I will be unable to run, or even walk, the race. But I will be there. Our friend and running coach, Ashley Kelso, will be running in my place.

Because I have been running I am more physically fit than I have been in years. I have lost 20 pounds and have more energy. That is 20 pounds less of me the doctor has to go through to get to the cancer. The miles I have put in will aid in my recovery over the next weeks and months.

Now our goal has changed. We want to raise a lot more money for the Greenebaum Cancer Center. And we are. When people have found out they have been so generous. Each time we receive an email that another donation has come in, it gives us that much more strength to face what is coming. Each word of encouragement posted is like a hug through the Internet and helps our spirits soar.

It is important you know I am 51 years old and there is no history of colon cancer in my family. If I had not had a colonoscopy, my cancer would not have been found. Do not wait to get screened.

Please visit my Maryland Half Marathon racing page to make a donation. Any support, financial or otherwise, is greatly appreciated, and all financial donations are 100% tax deductible. Every small act of kindness is a source of encouragement. Thank you for considering this cause in your charitable giving.

Your prayers (vibes, candles, positive thoughts and encouragement) are welcome and needed. Thank you for being a part of this journey.