Finding Patient-Friendly Colorectal Cancer Screening Options

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

Gifford cancer program

One of our program goals for 2014 was to screen more people for colon cancer to help decrease the number of later-staged colon cancers found in our patients. Providers and nursing staff talk with patients during office visits about cancer screening services available at Gifford, and the benefits of detecting cancer early—especially with colon cancer, the “preventable cancer.”

A typical colorectal cancer starts as a slow-growing polyp in the lining of the colon or the rectum. These precancerous polyps and early cancers can be detected (and removed) during a colonoscopy, which is the preferred colon cancer screening test. But many patients delay or refuse colonoscopy screening, and we still want to encourage those people to at least have a fecal blood cancer detection test with their annual physical.

The hemoccult cards traditionally used for this screening required a patient to collect multiple samples at home and bring them back to their provider’s office. Even with an improved follow-up system to remind people to return their cards, less than half of the tests made it back to Gifford. Many patients reported that the dietary restrictions, multiple sample collecting, and the embarrassment of having to carry the card back to their provider caused them not to complete the test.

Cancer program staff explored other screening options and found a test that detects blood in the stool more accurately, is easier for patients to use and, more importantly, can be discretely mailed back to the lab for analysis. The FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Testing) cancer detection test is now offered as part of annual physicals at Gifford.

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

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.

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 www.giffordmed.org.

Colorectal Health Talk Aims to Overcome Embarrassment, Improve Quality of Life

Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli

Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli

RANDOLPH -Gifford Medical Center general surgeon Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli is working to bring colon and rectal health issues to the forefront in a Feb. 9 talk titled “Everyone’s Got One: A Discussion on the Colon and How to Keep it Healthy.”

Dr. Ciccarelli will lead the 5:30-7:30 p.m. talk in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center, sharing the important role of the colon and common colorectal health issues.

“Everyone has these organs. Yet people are reluctant to talk about problems with their colon or their rectum. Men especially find it difficult to discuss these matters,” Dr. Ciccarelli says. “But this is one area of medicine where we can actually prevent disease, extend lives, and improve quality of life.”

The human body contains about seven feet of colon, or large intestine, which plays a vital role in helping the body complete the digestion process, retain water, and eliminate waste. Like any organ, it can be subject to disease.

Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States and Vermont. One in 20 people will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. And each year, about 140,000 people nationally are diagnosed with the disease and about 50,000 die from it.

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.

Yet, 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.

Cancer, however, is just one disease that can affect the large bowel. Dr. Ciccarelli will discuss diverticulosis and its complications, along with routine anorectal topics, such as anal fissures and hemorrhoids.

“The colon and rectum can cause numerous problems that may drastically affect one’s quality of life. We want to eliminate the shame, fear, embarrassment, and misunderstanding of talking to your health care provider about colorectal health concerns,” notes Dr. Ciccarelli.

“At some point in their lives, most people experience some sort of problem with their colon or rectum. It’s not something people freely speak about,” agrees Gifford Vice President of Surgery Rebecca O’Berry. “We’re hoping community members can put aside any reservations they may have and come out to learn how they can feel better and live longer.”

The talk aims to reduce embarrassment by sharing a real patient story. After years as a surgeon, Dr. Ciccarelli also ensures he’ll infuse plenty of humor into the discussion, which includes a question and answer period at the end.

The event is free and open to the public. Register by calling Amanda at (802) 728-2238.

Gifford 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 www.giffordmed.org.