Physician and nurse colorectal cancer awareness advocates

An addition, an advocate, for colorectal cancer awareness

Thursday, January 24, 2019 | Cancer Care

According to colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates in Delaware, there’s much work to be done in terms of increasing awareness, early detection, screening rates, and community education for this third-most common type of cancer. To help facilitate this, the Bayhealth Cancer Institute recently added a nurse navigator specific to colorectal cancer.

Trina Turner, MSN, RN-BC, LNC, is Bayhealth’s new nurse navigator specific to colorectal as well as lung cancer. “Screening plays an essential role in the early detection of all cancers, especially colorectal cancer. Early screening and detection can produce better patient outcomes for the treatment of colorectal cancer. An important part of my role as a nurse navigator is to help schedule cancer screenings for patients and provide follow-up help — whether they have health insurance or not,” she explained.

Turner says too many people skip doctor’s visits or their regular screenings because they’re uninsured or underinsured. “Screening for Life is a program designed to help these patients get the care and treatment they need,” she said. “It provides assistance in finding a primary care provider, if needed, and provides payment for cancer screening tests to qualified Delaware adults.”

Bayhealth Colorectal and General Surgeon Assar Rather, MD, FACS, FASCRS, adds that although colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death, it’s completely treatable and preventable in most cases. According to Dr. Rather, risk factors for colorectal cancer include a Western-style diet or one low in fiber, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, and a family history. Dr. Rather recommends people start regular screening at age 50. “Newer research suggests that African Americans should begin regular screening at age 45. Patients with family history of colorectal cancer may need earlier screening. Screening can be done by a gastroenterologist or a colorectal surgeon,” he said.

The common colorectal screening methods are a fecal occult blood test; Cologuard®, which also detects blood in the stool and looks for DNA cell changes; a flexible sigmoidoscopy; and a colonoscopy. If blood or an abnormality is found as a result of the other methods, a colonoscopy will be required. Also, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons considers a colonoscopy to be the “gold standard” when it comes to colorectal screening and says it’s the preferred method unless medical conditions don’t allow for it.

Treating colorectal cancer one step at a time

For those diagnosed with colorectal cancer, at Bayhealth, patients receive a specific treatment course based on their individual needs. During a multidisciplinary Tumor Conference, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and other medical providers come together for a multimodality review of the patient’s case history and make recommendations for treatment and follow-up care based on national guidelines.

As Dr. Rather also explained, a few steps typically apply to all Bayhealth colorectal cancer patients as outlined below.

Step One: See a specialist. This may include a surgeon, a medical oncologist and/or a radiation oncologist. If the patient requires surgery, it’s usually performed using minimally invasive techniques — either laparoscopic or robotic.

Step Two: Attend Colon Camp. This is an educational opportunity for patients before they undergo surgery. It’s an hour-long appointment with a nurse who explains how the surgery works, how to prepare for surgery and what to expect after surgery.

Step Three: Undergo colorectal surgery followed by the ERAS protocol. ERAS (enhanced recovery after surgery) is a set of perioperative procedures and practices that are applied to all patients undergoing colorectal surgery to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. Positive outcomes include freedom from nausea, freedom from pain at rest, early mobilization, early return of bowel function, improved wound healing, and early hospital discharge.

For more information about the Screening for Life program, visit HealthyDelaware.org or call 302-744-1040. Visit Bayhealth.org to learn more about colorectal cancer treatment and prevention.

Robotic-assisted surgery

Bayhealth’s Robotic Surgery Program began in 2010. Today, more than 30 types of robotic surgeries are performed at Bayhealth by nine surgeons who are specially trained and credentialed to use the da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system. Thanks in part to generous monetary gifts from members of our local communities given through the Bayhealth Foundation, Bayhealth recently purchased a second da Vinci surgical system. As a result, the highly trained and experienced surgical teams at both Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus and the new Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus will use this minimally invasive surgical system to perform a wide range of delicate and complex operations. This includes those related to bariatric, colorectal, general, gynecologic, thoracic, and urologic surgeries. The robotic-assisted surgical system has been shown to provide a faster recovery, less pain, fewer complications, and better clinical outcomes.