Physician Spotlight: University of Wisconsin Gastroenterologist and Researcher Jennifer Weiss

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At Be Seen, Get Screened, we're trying to provide as much information and as many resources as we possibly can about colon cancer in an effort to get more people screened and save more lives.

That got us thinking: who better to tap as an information source than physicians themselves---the experts working on the front line for the same cause.

That's why we're proud to announce a new feature on the Be Seen, Get Screened blog: the physician spotlight. Each month (or perhaps more frequently), we'll feature a Q&A with a gastroenterologist, primary care physician or researcher.

We hope these Q&As will serve two purposes: to help patients learn more about screening and help physicians learn strategies for getting more patients screened---right from their peers. 

Our first physician spotlight is Dr. Jennifer Weiss from the University of Wisconsin (pictured above).

BSGS: Tell us about your professional experience with colorectal cancer screening?

Dr. Weiss: As a gastroenterologist, I perform screening colonoscopies on both average-risk and high-risk patients.  I am also the Director of the University of Wisconsin Gastroenterology Genetics Clinic where I see patients and their family members, in conjunction with our Genetic Counselor, who might be at-risk for hereditary colon cancer syndromes.  We provide counseling regarding genetic testing and make screening recommendations.

The other hat I wear is a researcher.  My research program is focused on increasing colorectal cancer screening rates through health system redesign. 

I am currently funded by the American Cancer Society, the University of Wisconsin Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center to study ways to optimize health system interventions aimed at increasing colorectal cancer screening rates. 

My overall goal is to develop a comprehensive toolkit to help guide other healthcare systems in their efforts to improve colorectal cancer screening.

BSGS: What do you say to patients who are hesitant to get screened for colorectal cancer?

Dr. Weiss: Through my training in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology I have seen too many patients diagnosed with a colorectal cancer that could have been prevented if they had received appropriate colorectal cancer screening. 

One of the most amazing aspects of colorectal cancer screening is that we are not just focused on early detection of colorectal cancer.  Through screening, we can actually identify pre-cancerous lesions (adenomatous colon polyps), remove them, and prevent progression to cancer.

BSGS: What are some common objections to colorectal cancer screening?  How do you address them?

Dr. Weiss: Some of the most common objections to colorectal cancer screening are anxiety about the colonoscopy with respect to the invasive aspect of the procedure and fear of drinking the bowel preparation that is necessary for a good exam.  People are also concerned about taking time off from work for the procedure and having a family member or friend also take time off of work to drive them to the procedure. 

I address these concerns by first explaining that there are a number of choices for a colorectal cancer screening exam such as optical colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, and multiple stool-based tests that can be done in the privacy of their own home. 

These tests have varying degrees of ability to detect and remove pre-cancerous colon polyps, but in the end the best test is the one that gets done!  I then work with my patients to determine which test is best for them based on their personal history, family history, and personal preferences.

BSGS: Besides screening, what do you recommend to patients to improve colorectal health?

Dr. Weiss: Exercise, no smoking, limit alcohol intake, and a high fiber/low fat diet.

BSGS: What one thing should everyone know about colorectal cancer screening?

Dr. Weiss: I would again emphasize the fact that colorectal cancer screening has the potential not only for early detection of colorectal cancer, but also for prevention by identifying and removing pre-cancerous colon polyps.

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Topics: Physician Spotlight