Colorectal Cancer News in Brief: December 29


Factors related to the patient, year of surgery, and tumor itself and not surgeons or pathologists explain low lymph node counts after colon and rectal surgery.  Lack of colorectal cancer screening leads to emergency surgery and complications and death among the elderly.

Americans without health insurance are more likely to die, even when factors like overall health, smoking, and income are considered, and cancer patients who have support from family and friends at diagnosis are much more likely to look on the entire experience as a chance for positive growth years later.

Finally, FDA has a good video to help people avoid health care frauds.

Happy Holidays.  Enjoy family, friends, and lights.

Research Highlights

  • Why are too few colon cancer lymph nodes tested?  Is it the surgeon removing too few or the pathologist not examining them all?  Or something entirely different?  Reviewing lymph node reports from 430 colon cancer patients operated on in one large hospital in a period just over four years from 2003 through 2007, researchers found no difference among 18 surgeons nor any difference that could be attributed to 10 pathologists or 3 pathology assistants.  Instead, the age of the patient, the site of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and the year the surgery was done contributed to inadequate lymph node counts.  James W. Jakub, MD, and his team reported their study in the Archives of Surgery, December 2009.
  • Lack of colorectal cancer screening leaves elderly patients at risk for emergency surgery when growing cancer blocks or perforates the colon.  About a third (30 percent) of 292 emergency colorectal surgeries in a large university hospital were due to either colon obstruction or perforation.  Fifteen percent of all patients older than 65 who had emergency colorectal surgery died, and 35 percent had at least one serious complication.   In their conclusion in the December 2009 Archives of Surgery, Edward A. McGillicuddy, MD and the Yale University team point out, “These procedures frequently involve locally advanced colorectal cancer, emphasizing the need for improved colorectal cancer screening.”
  • When cancer patients receive emotional support in the three months after their diagnosis, they are much more likely to look on their cancer experience as an opportunity for positive growth many years later.  Eight years after diagnosis, cancer survivors who got reassurance, comforting, and help with problem solving from family and friends reported positive outcomes from their illness, what researchers termed posttraumatic growth. Maya J. Schroevers and her team discuss their study in Psycho-Oncology, January 2010.
  • Lack of health insurance increases risk of dying, even when other factors like smoking, obesity, income, and overall health are taken into account.   Americans from 17 to 64 who are uninsured are twice as likely to die.  When the Boston research team adjusted their analysis to include race, ethnicity, income, education, body mass index, exercise, smoking, alcohol use, and how both individuals and their doctors rated their health, the uninsured were 40 percent more likely to die than the general population.  The December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health reports the analysis by Andrew P. Wilper, MD, MPH and colleagues.

Other Headlines


  1. Kate Murphy says

    This is a tough one.

    If he has symptoms, he needs to have a colonoscopy to rule out colon cancer.

    There are programs in some states that provide screening and colonoscopies, but they are not everywhere.

    Try calling your local health department — city, county, or state — to find out if there is a program near him.

    He can also get an appointment at a community health center. While community health centers provide primary health care, the doctors and social workers there can help with referrals to a gastroenterologists and possible enrollment in Medicaid.

    You can follow this link to find a federally funded community health care center near where he lives.

    Community health centers charge only what patients can afford to pay.

    Finally, it would not hurt to call a gastroenterologist, explain the symptoms, and ask for a reduced fee or payment plan. Some doctors are willing to help when asked.

    Good luck. These are very hard stories to hear.

  2. Linda says

    My brother, age 58 has symptoms of colon cancer , he has no health insurance. How can he find a doctor and get treatment ?

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