VA NY Harbor Health Care System
Wednesday, July 24, 2013On July 16, Tony Metcalf, the 50-year-old publisher of the familiar free giveaway newspaper Metro US, died of colon cancer. Although the British journalist was not a US Veteran or personally known to Dr. Thomas Weber, Chief of Surgery at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System's Brooklyn Campus or Dr. Manuel Martinez, Director of Endoscopy (Brooklyn Campus), they were shocked. And, in some way, took the news personally.
Fierce advocates for colon cancer prevention, these experts say that colon cancer caught early can be cured. "The bottom line is that everyone should be screened at the age of 50 and those at higher risk because of a family history of cancer are usually advised to have a colonoscopy at 40 or, in some situations, even earlier," said Dr. Weber.
"As much as people resist the idea of a colonoscopy, it's not as bad as colon cancer," said Dr. Martinez. Although colon cancer rates continue to drop according to the National Institutes of Health, still thousands of patients die from it ever year. It the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US each year.
"Unfortunately, many people do not see their doctor until they have symptoms. These may be diarrhea or constipation, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, or sudden weight loss," said Dr. Martinez. If a patient is referred for surgery, Dr. Weber emphasized the importance of discussion among a multi-disciplinary team of care providers in deciding the course of action. "We discuss the treatment with the patient and his/her family having presented the details of the patient's situation to the tumor board, which consists of radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, and our gastroenterology colleagues, and decide the safest and most effective line of therapy for the patient."
Looking to promote colon cancer screenings in every way possible, the two physicians are enthusiastic about the vivid red "Super Colon," the inflatable model of a segment of colon that has been installed on the first floor of VA’s Brooklyn Campus this summer. A quick tour through the model gives viewers the opportunity to see highly magnified views depicting normal colon tissue compared with segments of non-malignant polyps, and up to more severe lesions such as cancer.