The “Preventable Cancer:” Spreading the Word about Colorectal Screening

This article was published in our Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.

preventing colon cancer

The providers in Gifford’s Cancer Program regularly visit senior centers, nursing homes, church meetings, and other community gatherings to offer skin cancer screenings, give free talks on cancer prevention and the importance of early detection, and host educational discussions of breast, bladder, prostate, and colorectal cancer.

In talks like “Everyone’s Got One: A Discussion of the Colon and How to Keep it Healthy,” surgeon Dr. Olveto Ciccarelli uses humor to help people learn about the importance of colorectal cancer prevention and screening.

“Everyone has these organs, but people are reluctant to talk about problems with their colon or their rectum,” said Ciccarelli. “Men especially find it difficult to discuss these matters, but this is one area where medical science has proven that cancer can be avoided, lives extended, and quality of life improved.”

This is especially true with colorectal cancer, which was a program focus for 2014. Colorectal cancer is called the only “preventable cancer” because it is the one cancer where regular screenings can help to keep cancer from forming. A colonoscopy detects any slow-growing polyps that may form in the colon so they can be removed before becoming cancerous. Because early colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, screening is even more important because it can detect existing cancer when treatment is most effective.

Still, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. The good news is that deaths from colorectal cancer have decreased as more people take advantage of screening tests like colonoscopies, specialized X-rays, and tests that check for cancer in the stool.

So far, Gifford has had significant success with our efforts to increase colorectal screening rates for our target age group of 50-75 (an increase to 90 percent in 2014 from 59 percent in 2013).

We will continue to spread the word in our community. With colon cancer, it is simple: Regular screening could save your life.

Click here to read our full Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford Cancer Program Overview

Gifford's cancer program

This article was published in our Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford cancer committeeEstablished in 1959, Gifford’s Cancer Program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

A dedicated cancer committee meets regularly to provide leadership for the program, including setting program goals and objectives, driving quality improvements and best outcomes for patients, and coordinating Gifford’s multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment.

Operating out of our relaxing Ambulatory Care Unit, Gifford’s Oncology Department includes:

  • Cancer care from an experienced oncologist
  • Specially certified oncology nurses
  • Planning options for cancer treatment following a diagnosis
  • Outpatient chemotherapy
  • Treatments for some hematology conditions

The medical center is home to advanced diagnostic technology, including stereotactic breast biopsies; a breast care coordinator providing education and outreach; a patient care navigator; many surgical offerings; data management and quality oversight; and cancer prevention programs, including a “Prevention into Practice” model that works with patients and their health care providers to bring screenings to the forefront.

Click here to read our full Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.

Free Men’s Health Talk Provides Expert Advice in Comfortable Setting

Gifford Medical Center general surgeon Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli

Gifford Medical Center general surgeon Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli

RANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center general surgeon Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli and urologist Dr. Richard Graham will lead a free men’s health talk on June 6 on colorectal health, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The talk will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center with free pizza and refreshments served at 5:30 p.m.

The talk aims to raise awareness of men’s health issues and preventable conditions, such as colon cancer, in a comfortable atmosphere, says Rebecca O’Berry, Gifford vice president of surgery.

“Both of our physicians are very approachable and personable and are able to find the humorous side of these topics,” O’Berry said. “I’m thrilled that we have two surgeons who are gifted, passionate, and so easy to talk to.”

Dr. Ciccarelli has been a general surgeon for more than 20 years, providing surgical care and colonoscopies at Gifford since 2007.

Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States and Vermont.

Colorectal cancer develops from polyps that grow – silently, unseen and unfelt – on the inside wall of the colon. Many polyps will never become cancer, but some will over the years.

A colonoscopy can both detect and prevent colorectal cancer. This is because during a colonoscopy, these polyps are removed in their precancerous state or before disease can be felt, preventing the onset or the spread of the disease. And when found early, colorectal cancer is highly curable.

Without colonoscopies, it is not until polyps become cancerous, grow large, and block the colon or break through the colon wall that colon cancer symptoms are evident.

“This is one area of medicine where we can actually prevent disease, extend lives, and improve quality of life,” says Dr. Ciccarelli, who will also discuss other common colorectal health issues, such as diverticulosis, anal fissures, and hemorrhoids.

Dr. Richard Graham

Gifford’s new urologist, Dr. Richard Graham

A renowned urologist, Dr. Graham has been practicing urology for 28 years and has performed surgeries around the world. He joined Gifford’s urology practices in Randolph and at the Twin River Health Center in White River Junction last year, bringing new procedures to the hospital.

An urologist specializes in diseases of the male and female urinary tract as well as male reproductive organs. Dr. Graham will consequently talk about common male reproductive ailments, including prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

In Vermont, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, according to the Vermont Department of Health. Nationally, about one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The average age of diagnosis is 67.

Treatment for prostate cancer can sometimes cause erectile dysfunction, a condition that affects millions of men in the United States and can be a sign of more serious disease.

Dr. Graham will address how prostate cancer is diagnosed and treatment options, and what works for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. He’ll also discuss the controversy over PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests for men, when they should be performed, what they mean, and why doctors order the screening.

“It’s a serious subject,” Dr. Graham says of the talk that he has given around the world, “but it’s also interactive.”

The event is open to men of all ages and to couples. There is no cost to attend but registration is encouraged. Call 728-2104 by May 30 to sign-up.

Gifford is an American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer nationally accredited cancer program. The hospital is located at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12 south of the village) in Randolph. The Conference Center is on the first floor of the hospital and marked by a green awning. Learn more online at