Follow-Up Care Could Make All the Difference, But Many Colon Cancer Patients Don’t Get It

September 09, 2008 09:52 AM
by Cara McDonough
Only about 40 percent of patients get the recommended screenings in the three years after colon cancer surgery, meaning the disease could return undetected.

Lack of Recommended Care

In a new study released Monday in the journal Cancer, it was found that only about 40 percent of 4,426 older patients got the recommended treatments, including doctor visits, blood tests and a colonoscopy, in the three years after surgery for colon cancer.

Researchers aren’t sure where to lay the blame—on the patients or the doctors—but “I would probably put most of the blame on the providers,” said Dr. Gregory Cooper, who led the study, according to the Associated Press.

The findings are important because patients who undergo surgery for colon cancer are more at risk for a reoccurrence of the disease, reports ScienceDaily.

Lack of follow-up care did not affect all groups involved in the study equally. There was less follow up screening among African-Americans and those with health problems.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, which funded the study, said he was not surprised by the findings. He said that despite advanced technology, “our ability to deliver the recommended care to patients has left something to be desired.”

The study authors concluded that further studies could determine the reasons for the problem, as well as the affect on patient outcome.

Related Topic: Causes and prevention of colon cancer

A recent Cancer Project TV advertisement raised controversy when it suggested that eating hot dogs could result in colon cancer.

The provegetarian group released the ad as part of a campaign to stop public schools from serving processed meats. While the issue was overdramatized—the ad featured a young boy eating a hot dog in a cafeteria saying “I was dumbfounded when the doctor told me I have late-stage colon cancer”—processed meats can raise a person’s risk of colon cancer, according to recent studies.

MSNBC reports that in one large study, eating 4–8 ounces of processed meat, such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, per week, raised the risk of getting colon cancer 13 percent compared with those who ate no processed meat. Another study found that eating about three ounces of processed meats per day raised colorectal cancer risk 42 percent.

The American Institute for Cancer Research assures people, however, that “an occasional hot dog at a ball game, or a slice of ham at Easter” will not cause colon cancer.

The MSNBC story recommends that those who want to prevent colon cancer should avoid high risk foods—large amounts of red meat and high fat foods may also contribute to contracting the disease—and focus on eating 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and at least three servings of whole grains every day. Moderate exercise is believed to help ward off colon cancer as well.

Reference: Colon cancer


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