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. 

Greenebaum Cancer Center Recognizes Compassion, Humility in Two Staff Members

Two University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center staff members were recently honored with 2015 Greenebaum Compassion Awards.  Medical assistant Heather Thomas and clinical nurse Thi Nguyen, RN, were nominated by their coworkers for exemplifying the qualities of compassion and humanitarianism while providing care for their patients.

Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum, for whom the Cancer Center is named, established the special award in 2007 to recognize staff members who go well beyond their normal duties and demonstrate extraordinary compassion, hope and dignity.

Thomas, a medical assistant at the Stoler Outpatient Lymphoma clinic, received not just one nomination, but four. Sharon Otto, RN, Seung Tae Lee, MD, Jennifer Cash, RN, and Arnob Banerjee, MD, PhD, all described Thomas as willing to go the extra mile for her patients, no matter the circumstances. She has been known to call patients to see how they are feeling or even simply to wish them a Happy Birthday.

“[Thomas] anticipates their needs and really makes them feel understood and cared for,” Cash says. “She will stop whatever she is doing if a patient stops her to see if she can help them. She is a wonderful team player, and I have never heard her say ‘no’ to anyone.”

Otto describes Thomas as the “epitome of calmness” and adds “our patients, our staff and the physicians all feel safe and comforted when Heather is involved.”

Nguyen works in the Greenebaum Cancer Center’s aphaeresis lab , providing treatments such as stem cell collection, photophoresis and leukodepletion. Nominated by Kathy Holden, RN, Nguyen inspires her coworkers to strive for the outstanding level of commitment, empathy and passion she displays on a daily basis. Holden says Nguyen is always looking for ways to make her patients’ procedures more effective and less taxing. Her passion for healing goes beyond her written job description.

“During conversations about the sometimes long hours and overtime, Thi has expressed to me: ‘I don’t care about that. I think about the patient and how they need that to survive, so I will do it. I don’t even care if I get paid,’” Holden says.

Nguyen’s concern for the patient’s welfare also doesn’t go unnoticed by those she helps treat. Holden says she has seen patients with tears in their eyes, thanking Nguyen for “saving their lives.”  Nguyen also becomes “overwhelmed with heartbreak” when a client has complications, and “noticeably rejoices with them for reaching milestones for recovery.”

Greenebaum Cancer Center staff members nominate their own colleagues for the annual Compassion Awards, are nominated by and a committee representing various Cancer Center departments selects the winners. As award recipients, Nguyen and Thomas each received a $2,500 cash award, and had their names added to the Compassion Award display in the Stoler Pavilion waiting area.