December 5, 2005
New Cancer Center Opens at Houston VA
Multi-disciplinary team approach specializes in diagnosing and treating colorectal cancer.
HOUSTON - Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 56,730 Americans will die of colorectal cancer this year. Colorectal cancer is also one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States; more than 145,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2004. The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center hospitalized more than 140 veterans last year for treatment of colorectal cancer.
In response to this serious health issue, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) has established a Colorectal Cancer Center, the first of its type in the VA, to ensure veterans receive timely evaluation with diagnostic procedures and appropriate, multiple, and innovative treatments and therapies.
The driving force behind the formation of the new center is its director, Daniel Albo, M.D., Ph.D., chief of General Surgery and Surgical Oncology at the MEDVAMC and assistant professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. Albo assembled a multi-disciplinary team comprised of surgeons, hematology specialists, surgical oncologists, nurses, physician assistants, surgical residents, social workers, and radiologists. Recruitment for an additional surgical oncologist has also begun.
Three other key components of the new center are a large database already established by Albo with information on patient with colorectal cancer diagnosed at the MEDVAMC in the last 10 years, a large tissue sample database, and tissue and blood sample repositories. These tools will allow MEDVAMC surgeons and physicians to follow recently diagnosed patients, track the progress of patients who have received treatment, and analyze patient data.
“Colon and rectal cancer can be very lethal. More than half of individuals with colorectal cancer have a chance of reoccurrence. Of those patients, 85 percent reoccur in the first two and half years. Recent studies have shown that intense follow up during this period leads to earlier detection, higher rates of therapeutic resection for recurrences, and an improvement in patient outcomes,” said Albo.
The key to colon and rectal cancer is early detection. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include a change in bowel habits; diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely; blood, either bright red or very dark, in the stool; stools that are narrower than usual; general abdominal discomfort, frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps; weight loss with no known reason; constant tiredness; and nausea and vomiting. Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems can cause the same symptoms. Usually, early cancer does not cause pain. It is important not to wait to feel pain before seeing a health care provider.
“The goal of this new center is to ensure each patient receives an individualized treatment plan targeted at his or her type of cancer with his unique situation in mind. With our databases and analysis, we hope to learn more about colorectal cancer, find better ways to treat it, and to cure it. With collaboration from the Baylor College of Medicine Cancer Center, we plan on expanding the concept of the Colorectal Cancer Center to the other Baylor adult affiliated hospitals St Luke's and Ben Taub,” said David H. Berger, M.D., MEDVAMC Operative Care Line executive.
# # #
Cutline: The driving force behind the formation of the new Colorectal Cancer Center at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is its director, Daniel Albo, M.D., Ph.D., chief of General Surgery and Surgical Oncology at the MEDVAMC and assistant professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.
Photo courtesy Baylor College of Medicine