Be Seen, Get Screened's Physician 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. Revathi Angitapalli, an oncologist at USMD Health System based in Irving, TX.
Be Seen, Get Screened: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and any experience you have with cancer and cancer screening?
Dr. Angitapalli: Cancer screening is designed to detect cancer at an earlier stage, which translates into improvement in survival, which is especially true when it comes to cancers like breast and colon.
BSGS: How big of a problem is cancer screening avoidance from an oncology perspective?
Dr. Angitapalli: It is still a huge problem. One in three adults aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. In 2010, the percentage of women aged 50–74 years who had a mammogram in the last two years, grouped by race and ethnicity was 64 - 73%.
BSGS: How are colon cancer prevention and breast cancer prevention alike? How are they different?
Dr. Angitapalli: Excess alcohol intake and excess weight both have been shown to increase the risk of colon and breast cancers. Regular physical exercise has been shown to provide some protection against breast and colon cancers.
Diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon cancer and possibly breast cancer. The risk-reducing effect of breastfeeding for breast cancer has been shown in multiple studies.
BSGS: Why do you think people avoid getting screened for preventable cancers, such as colon cancer and breast cancer?
Dr. Angitapalli: Common reasons to avoid screenings include:
- Time constraints
- Fear of finding cancer
- Misconceptions like the notion that mammograms causes cancers
BSGS: Besides regular screening, what recommendations do you have for folks who want to lower their cancer risk?
Dr. Angitapalli: Follow a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Exercise regularly, being obese or very overweight increases your risk of getting and dying from colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women, to decrease the risk of colon cancer. For women, breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention, the longer you breast feed, the greater the protective effect.
Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy—combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. Avoid smoking, long-term smoking can increase the risk of breast and colon cancers.
BSGS: What one thing should everyone know about colorectal cancer screening?
Dr. Angitapalli: With colorectal cancer screening, cancer sometimes can be detected at an early stage. Cure rates have increased with newer treatment modalities, and multiple treatment options exist for cancer patients, including ongoing clinical trials for selected patients.