Dr. Vorenberg Article Featured In Richmond Times Dispatch

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently published an article written by Dr. Vorenberg about colon cancer which is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death but a topic few are willing to discuss.  You can read the article below, or click to see read on the Richmond Times Dispatch website.

By Andrew J. Vorenberg, Published November 14, 2015

America loves a winner but reserves its lukewarm nods for anyone or anything that finishes second — the runner-ups. Consider the 2015 Super Bowl: Even though the Seattle Seahawks played a brilliant game, an errant pass by former Collegiate star Russell Wilson led to a big “L” for the Seahawks and a bigger “W” for Tom Brady and his winning Patriots.

All year long, the coach who called the decisive play, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, has been trying to live it down. Over my six years treating colon cancer, I’ve noticed how this winner-take-all mentality has a way of trickling down to how the public — and even health care providers — perceive this dangerous disease, which ranks No. 2 for cancer death among men and women.

According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 51,516 people in the U.S. died from colorectal cancer in 2012, with the number of men (26,866) slightly outpacing that of women (24,650). That makes it the second-leading cause of death among cancers that afflict both men and women (lung cancer is the leading cause, while, for women, breast cancer is the most fatal cancer).

Despite causing so much loss and anguish, this runner-up cancer has over the years failed to be taken as seriously as other forms of cancer, especially given the fact that early detection can lead to the successful removal of cancerous polyps.

In many respects, colon cancer is the Rodney Dangerfield of the cancer world, still not getting the respect it deserves.

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death — and a topic few are willing to discuss. It can seem gross and taboo.

While screening colonoscopies are recommended by primary care physicians, many patients often delay or refuse the test for a variety of reasons: the inconvenience of taking a day off of work for testing; dread of drinking a “gallon of GoLYTELY” to prepare for the exam; and sometimes just the lingering anxiety of having a rectal exam.

Eventually, with enough prodding by their doctors, friends and family as well as patients’ overwhelming fear of having colon cancer, we have been successful in getting roughly 2 out of 3 of Richmonders screened after they reach the appropriate age (50 and older).

In many respects, that’s quite a success for any health screening program. Still, when you’re talking about a disease that’s virtually symptomless until the later stages, we need to do a much better job in order to knock colon cancer from its runner-up position.

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Nationwide, there are several charities whose mission is improving research and awareness of this disease. But until 2011, Richmond had no organization or event dedicated solely to colon cancer. The silence on this topic was breathtaking. For a city that raises the banner of myriad worthy causes, to remain silent on the second-leading cause of cancer-related death was a major oversight.

In 2011, Mindy Conklin and I began planning a race to benefit colon cancer research and awareness. Mindy lost her husband, Rich, at the age of 43, to colon cancer. She had run races out-of-state benefiting national organizations battling colon cancer, and we met when we each approached Richmond Road Runners about supporting our cause.

Mindy and I agreed that all fundraising efforts should benefit our local neighborhoods. After all, we were asking our friends and family to support us in the hopes that we could enlighten and empower our neighbors to live healthier lives. We needed to focus our attention locally first.

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CRS Team at the Boxer Brief 5K

So we did. Since 2011, our new nonprofit group, Hitting Cancer Below the Belt (HCB2), has held a yearly 5K walk/run (Boxer Brief 5K), several golf tournaments (Teeing Off on Cancer) and a bowling tournament (Strike Out Cancer). With generous support from MEDARVA and many other medical groups and individuals, we have raised more than $100,000 for colon cancer awareness and research programs supporting the Richmond area.

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Along the way, we’ve been helped by the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s specialty care program, Access Now, as well as by affiliated free clinics and participating gastroenterologists and colon and rectal surgeons. With these partners, we have held two free colonoscopy screening days over the past year for patients with limited or no access to specialty care.

About 40 percent of the patients who were screened had polyps, which were removed at the time of the colonoscopy. Why? Because those polyps could become cancerous in the future and would have required surgery.

This explains why early detection is key — and why a colonoscopy can save your life.

Preventable, beatable, treatable. This is our mantra when it comes to colon cancer.

Yet every year there are 150,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancer, with 50,000 deaths annually.

But now, with the generous support of our friends and neighbors in the Richmond area, we can start talking about our bodily functions and, in the process, save many lives.


Read more about Dr. Vorenberg and the providers at Colon and Rectal Specialists.

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