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Colorectal Cancer Symposium March 8 At Pacific Design Center

Colorectal Cancer Screening Can Be a Lifesaving Step

March 8 Symposium to Focus on Highly Preventable Disease

Wouldn’t you jump at the chance to help prevent one of the most common types of cancer, especially if it simply required a safe and painless outpatient screening procedure?

It sounds like a no-brainer, but unfortunately it’s not that simple when the cancers in question are colon and rectal cancer. Americans have a seven percent lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colon cancer, and each year more than 50,000 men and women in this country die from the disease.

Even more tragically, in as many of 90 percent of cases, proper early screening could have saved the patient’s life. Yet in spite of this, cancer specialists say there’s a real reluctance among the public to get tested.

David Hoffman, M.D., a medical oncologist with Tower Hematology Oncology Medical Group in Beverly Hills, is committed to combatting the disease with all available resources, including education. As part of that commitment, he’ll be serving as moderator for a panel discussion of colorectal cancer sponsored by the Tower Cancer Research Foundation. The 2011 Winter Cancer Symposium, “Advances in Colon and Rectal Cancer Research and Treatment: A Multidisciplinary Panel Discussion,” will be held March 8 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood and is free to attend.

“One of the essential roles that Tower plays is serving as a resource to our community,” Dr. Hoffman said. “The symposium is an opportunity to spread the word about the importance of screening for a disease that is preventable, to introduce ourselves to the community, to answer questions, and to educate the public about the exciting advances we are making in the treatment of early stage and advanced colorectal cancer.”

One of the most important recent advances has been the identification of key signals and targets that allow for a highly personalized approach to cancer therapy.

“This approach is one result of the development of bioengineered antibodies and angiogenesis inhibitors—elegant compounds that, unlike chemotherapy, are not simply poisons,” he explained. “Using these compounds, we can give specific agents to the right group of patients and, conversely, patients who are unlikely to benefit from certain medications can avoid unnecessary exposure.”

Overcoming the Reluctance

Although he is thrilled with these new treatment advances, Dr. Hoffman said that detecting and preventing colorectal cancer through early screening is far preferable.

“It’s very difficult to detect colon cancer except through screening because most people don’t exhibit any symptoms,” he explained. “Unfortunately, there are a number of barriers that must be overcome for most people to get a colonoscopy. These include fears about pain, the unpleasantness of preparing for the exam, and embarrassment about talking about the colon or bowels.

“There is a certain denial that goes along with avoiding screening tests when someone is symptom-free,” he admitted. “But actually the test is painless and has an extremely low risk of complications.”

Dr. Hoffman said that age 50 is generally considered a good age for people with no family history of the cancer to begin screenings. If someone is interested in a screening colonoscopy, he or she can talk about the procedure with a primary care physician, call a gastroenterologist, or discuss it with a panelist at the symposium.

“We will make sure that we assist everyone who is interested in having this critically important and potentially lifesaving test,” he emphasized.

Experienced Cancer Specialists

The March 8 symposium will feature six medical professionals who specialize in distinct areas of cancer prevention, detection, and recovery.

“The treatment of cancer requires an expert team, and each member of the team plays an important role,” Dr. Hoffman said.

Specialists scheduled to present information and answer questions include:

• Dr. Hoffman, a medical oncologist – Administers medications such as chemotherapy or biologic drugs. This specialist is considered the “captain” of the team.

• Dr. Henry Yampolsky, a radiation oncologist – Delivers therapeutic radiation using various techniques and radioactive material. For colorectal cancer patients, radiation can eradicate microscopic cancer cells in the pelvis, shrink cancers before surgery, and treat areas of pain at sites of growing cancer.

• Dr. Mari Madsen, a surgical oncologist – Operates to remove cancer and regional structures, such as lymph nodes, at risk for involvement. Some surgeries occur in planned stages over time.

• Dr. Carey Strom, a gastroenterologist – Often, this is the physician who diagnoses colorectal cancer. Performs colonoscopies and other endoscopic procedures to visualize the insides of the bowel and GI tract, and helps manage symptoms related to the disease and its treatment.

• Jodi Newson, an oncology certified dietitian – Helps patients maintain adequate nutrition during cancer therapy and supports their healthy lifestyle modifications afterward.

• Dr. Peter Lee, a clinical research scientist – Brings novel treatments from the bench to the bedside, giving patients the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research in the quest to find the cure.

The 2011 Winter Cancer Symposium is one of Tower’s numerous outreach efforts to the community. It recently launched the Tower Hematology Oncology Cancer Support Network, a collaboration of community organizations that provides free cancer support and educational services to the West Side. Tower Hematology Oncology has also been named as the “Fight Back” chair organization for the 2011 Relay for Life of Beverly Hills event to be held April 30.

The March 8 symposium will be held from 7-9pm at the Pacific Design Center, 8687 W. Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. Attendance is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so call 310-205-5789 to RSVP.

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