Be Seen, Get Screened'sPhysician Spotlight Q&A series highlights the work of health care professionals on the front line in the fight against colon cancer. In our latest Q&A, we talked to Dr. Timothy Ritter, a gastroenterologist at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in Southlake, TX.
Be Seen, Get Screened: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and any experience you have with preventing or treating colorectal cancer?
Dr. Ritter: I was born and raised in west Texas and went to Texas A&M University followed by medical school at UT Southwestern in Dallas. I did an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Parkland Hospital in Dallas follow by a three year fellowship in Digestive Diseases also at Parkland.
Since that time I have been in practice for over 20 years in the Grapevine /Southlake area with Texas Digestive Disease Consultants. I am a member of the American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterology Association, Texas Society of Gastroenterology and I am a fellow in the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
Over the last 20 years I have been actively involved in all aspects of our practice including colorectal cancer screening. I currently work with the ASGE’s health and public policy committee to try and get universal colon cancer screening available to everyone.
BSGS: You’re a lifelong Texas resident, what unique challenges and opportunities come with preventative care in Texas?
Dr. Ritter: For the most part Texas is no different than any other state. It is always a challenge to get patients to participate in colon cancer screening particularly when they feel perfectly fine.
In Texas we have a large immigrant population who are often underinsured and frequently do not speak English as their primary language. These can be impediments to convincing patients to get screened.
BSGS: How are discussions about colorectal caner and attitudes toward screening different in Texas than in other parts of the country?
Dr. Ritter: The discussion is no different in Texas than anywhere else. People are people. You have to sit down and take the time to get to know your patient. Establish a level of trust and explain the need for screening and the process.
BSGS: What do you say to patients who are hesitant to get screened for colorectal cancer?
Dr. Ritter: Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in men and women as well as the second most common cause of cancer related deaths. Given proper screening at appropriate intervals most colon cancer can be prevented.
Colon cancer prevention is a unique opportunity. For most other cancers the focus is on early diagnosis, treatment and interventions of an already established malignancy.
For colon cancer, with timely removal of polyps, the cancer can be prevented from ever occurring making decisions regarding surgery, radiation and chemotherapy unnecessary.
BSGS: Besides regular screening, what recommendations do you have for folks who want to lower their colorectal cancer risk?
Dr. Ritter: SCREENING IS THE KEY. Beyond that, patients should engage in a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, a healthy diet and regular check ups by their physicians.
Should any symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or rectal bleeding develop then these should be investigated.
BSGS: What one thing should everyone know about colorectal cancer screening?
Dr. Ritter: The procedure is very low risk, performed under sedation, and is essentially painless.