Farrah Fawcett died on Thursday, June 25, 2009 of anal cancer that had spread to her liver. She was 62. Anal cancer is much more rare than either colon or rectal cancer, affecting about 5,300 Americans in 2009. 710 will die from it.
In other headlines, the Caterpillar company works with Peoria hospitals and doctors to ensure quality colonoscopy for their employees and a Swiss laboratory will be the first to offer a blood screening test for colorectal cancer.
In research, MRI colonography is useful for patients who can’t have a full colonoscopy before surgery, screening colonoscopies are increasing for Medicare enrollees, and scientists have found factors in tumors that make nerves more sensitive to pain.
- Magnetic resonance colonography was successful before surgery for patients with colon or rectal cancer who hadn’t yet had a complete colonography. Done either the night before in surgery in the hospital or a week before as an outpatient procedure, it revealed lesions, both cancers and polyps, in 4 out of 47 patients tested, changing the surgical strategy for 3 of them. One flat adenoma and 5 small polyps were missed and found later on colonoscopy. Although bowel cleansing is necessary, there is no radiation or sedation. Michael P. Achiam and his team in Copenhagen report on the feasibility and potential benefits of MRC in the July 2009 issue of Academic Radiology.
- Since 1998 when Medicare first began paying for colonoscopy, its use has increased each year for Medicare enrollees, and use of other screening tests including FOBT, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and barium enema has decreased. Percentage of people on Medicare who have been screened for colorectal cancer has increased each year, but still less than half (47 percent) had been tested in 2005. Only a third of people 50 to 64 who are covered by Medicare because of a disability had an appropriate screening test. Anna Schenk in North Carolina and a team at the National Cancer Institute report findings in the American Journal of Prevention Medicine, July 2009.
- Working with mice, German scientists have discovered two substances secreted by tumors that make nerve fibers more sensitive to pain, increase nerve endings in the skin, and cause the growth of tumors. Blocking the signals of granulocyte- and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factors (G-CSF and GM-CSF) may lead to a more effective way of controlling cancer pain. Matthias Schweizerhof discusses the research in a letter to Nature Medicine published online June 7, 2009. Science Daily had an article about the studies on June 25.
- The Caterpillar company, headquartered in Peoria, IL, provides free cervical, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer screening to its 45,000 US employees. To manage costs and ensure quality, they met with hospital and doctors in their area and proposed a program for Caterpillar employees that caps costs for colonoscopy at $1,000 and also grades doctors on how many of eight colonoscopy quality-indicators they meet. That information is shared with the program doctors. All doctors who do colonoscopies in the Peoria region are now part of the program. Health reporter Julie Steenhuysen covers the story for Reuters Health.
- Voillier, a private Swiss testing lab will be the first in Europe to offer a blood test for colorectal cancer based changes in DNA. The test looks for methylation of DNA in the SEPT9 gene which ordinarily keeps tumors from developing. Cancer cells shed this altered DNA into the bloodstream. The test was developed by German molecular diagnostics firm Epigenomics, which plans to offer the test in the United States later this year. Currently a study is underway with 7,500 people who who will have the blood test done before their colonoscopy to find out if changes in blood DNA are reflected in colonoscopy results.