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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month; Fox Chase Cancer Center Offers Program for People at High Risk of Colorectal Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (March 2000) -- More than 130,000 Americans will learn they have cancer of the colon or rectum in 2000. The nation's third leading cause of cancer deaths, colorectal cancer affects men and women almost equally and kills about 56,300 a year. Many more are at risk of the disease due to such factors as family history and diet, according to a number of scientific studies.

Physicians at Fox Chase Cancer Center have created a program to meet the needs of these high-risk people. The Gastrointestinal Tumor-Risk Assessment Program is designed to detect colon and other gastrointestinal cancers at early, treatable stages-and possibly keep cancerous tumors from developing.

Tailored to individual medical needs, the program starts by determining a person's risk and creating a personal screening schedule. Dr. Neal J. Meropol, a medical oncologist, directs this risk-assessment program as well as the Fox Chase treatment program for gastrointestinal cancers.

Colon cancer develops slowly and involves several steps-including genetic changes leading to precancerous growths called polyps. The purpose of screening is to detect polyps so they can be removed before they become cancerous. Most are removed without surgery. A vital screening procedure is sigmoidoscopy, a colon examination with a flexible lighted tube, or endoscope.

Screening should start by age 40 for people whose close relatives have had colon polyps or cancer of the colon or rectum. People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, also have an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancers.

When cancer of the colon and rectum is detected early, most patients are cured by an operation alone, and colostomies are rarely necessary. This is a major benefit to be gained from screening.

The tumor-risk assessment program includes a comprehensive diagnostic workup and access to family counseling. The counseling team will explain risk factors for colon cancer, such as a high-fat diet, and discuss opportunities for genetic testing for those who are interested. Participants may also be eligible to take part in clinical studies aimed at preventing colorectal tumors.

People who believe they are at high risk can make an appointment for the Gastrointestinal Tumor-Risk Assessment Program by calling 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427) Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at:

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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