Tag Archive for ColonCancer

Should I Get a Colonoscopy?


by Richard Saltus

Colonoscopy exams get a bad rap.

Even though the exam is brief and painless, many people fear and avoid them. Roughly 40 percent of Americans for whom they are recommended are not getting colonoscopies.

Yet colonoscopy is one of the most effective of all cancer prevention methods. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 142,820 diagnoses of colorectal cancer in 2013 and 50,830 people will die of the disease.  As many as 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone 50 years old or above underwent colonoscopies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Cancer Researcher Values Teaching and Learning


By William Hahn, MD, PhD

Every year, hundreds of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students study cancer research at Dana-Farber under some of the world’s leading scientists. The Dana-Farber Postdoc and Graduate Student Affairs Office recently named the first recipient of its Mentor-of-the-Year Award: William Hahn, MD, PhD, the Institute’s deputy scientific officer and director of its Center for Cancer Genome Discovery. Here, Hahn discusses the lessons he learned from his own mentors and his efforts to instill the same principles in his own trainees.

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Survivorship care brings peace of mind


Award-winning photographer Richard Conboy understands the value of enjoying the moment, both in his pictures and in his life. Conboy had Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teenager, and 40 years later, he beat colon cancer with the help of the Dana-Farber. Read more

Specialists recommend regular colonoscopies


If you’re over 50, have you been screened for colorectal cancer?  If not, the month of March would be a great time to talk about screening with your doctor.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in men and women in theUnited States. In 2012, an estimated 141,210 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 49,380 will die of the disease.

But it’s also a very curable cancer when it’s caught early. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February that tracked patients as long as 20 years shows that colonoscopy screening slashed the colorectal cancer death rate by more than 50 percent.

During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, organizations across the country are holding events and sharing information about the disease, and are encouraging all men and women age 50 to 75 to have a screening test – usually a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy involves examination of the colon and rectum using a camera-tipped instrument. This method can diagnose cancers early; the test also can prevent cancer from developing, by detecting and removing pre-cancerous polyps.

Though many people dread colonoscopies, with appropriate sedation they are relatively painless. And for people who aren’t at high risk, a colonoscopy every 10 years is sufficient, says Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of Dana-Farber’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center. “Beyond our continuing efforts to define better treatments for patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer, we continue to focus on the importance of primary prevention through diet and exercise and early detection through regular screening colonoscopies.”

Here are just two leads researchers at the center are looking at:

  • It appears that patients who have high levels of vitamin D in their body are less likely to have recurrences of colorectal cancer. Dr. Kimmie Ng, a medical oncologist in the gastrointestinal cancer center, is leading what she says is the first randomized clinical trial to determine if boosting vitamin D levels with high doses of supplements can delay progression and lengthen survival in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. “There are several scientific and observational studies showing that vitamin D may have anti-tumor effects,” Ng says.
  • Physical exercise has also been shown to have benefits for colorectal cancer patients. There’s also evidence that metformin, a widely used diabetes drug, may have an anticancer effect. A new clinical trial led by gastrointestinal oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, is testing a combination of metformin and exercise in patients at risk for recurrence of colorectal cancer following treatment with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.


The benefits of vitamin D


Activated by sunlight and present in some foods and supplements, vitamin D has been associated with healthy bones and reducing the risk of diabetes and cancer.

But a new study says that the recommended dose of vitamin D needed to reap these health benefits remains unclear. To help shed some light on the topic, we talked to Dana-Farber’s Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, who has been studying the connection between cancer and vitamin D use, as well as other lifestyle factors.

What is the connection between cancer and vitamin D?

There is a large amount of scientific and observational data that links higher blood levels of vitamin D with a decreased risk of developing cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. It has also been found to improve cancer survival.

How do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin D?

Physicians can use a blood test, called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, to measure how much of the nutrient is in the body. While many consider a vitamin D level of around 30 ng/ml or higher sufficient, we’ve found that the protective effects come from 35-40 ng/ml.

What is the recommended vitamin D dose for an adult?

The Institute of Medicine recommends between 600 – 800 IU. We don’t know what the optimal doses of vitamin D are for cancer prevention and treatment, although we suspect that they’re much higher than this recommendation. It is important to ask your doctor about how much vitamin D is best for you.

Is it better to get vitamin D from a pill or other sources?

Supplements are the best way to take vitamin D. Diet accounts for only 20 percent of vitamin D. A glass of fortified milk, for example, only contains 100 IU of vitamin D and isn’t enough to raise your blood levels. And while spending 10 minutes in the sun without sunblock provides 20,000 IU of vitamin D, there are other health risks to consider, like skin cancer.

Learn more about cancer and vitamin D deficiency.

Are there any vitamin D and cancer clinical trials?

We hope to begin enrolling metastatic colorectal cancer patients in early 2012 for a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of high doses of vitamin D in combination with chemotherapy. We will be comparing the differences between a standard dose of 400 IU of vitamin D3 with chemotherapy, versus a higher dose of 8,000 IU of vitamin D3 for two weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 4,000 IU vitamin D3 with chemotherapy.