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 cardiologist Dr. Afshine Emrani about the importance of disease prevention.
Be Seen, Get Screened: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background, specifically your experience with colon cancer and colon cancer screening?
Dr. Emrani: I am a cardiologist by training, but I have moved toward preventive care both in internal medicine and in cardiology. I started with preventive cardiology, but now I treat the whole patient. We assess colon cancer risk as part of our routine physicals, and we end up doing colon cancer screenings for a lot of patients.
BSGS: How does your experience with cardiology help with your work with elderly patients?
Dr. Emrani: Tremendously. We have a significant number of elderly patients and all of them have multiple disease states. Cancer screenings are a large part of my practice.
BSGS: Why do you think it’s important for people to be educated about the known risk factors and screening options for serious diseases?
Dr. Emrani: I think prevention is more important than treatment. If you can try to stay ahead of disease states, you can avoid dealing with the physical treatment – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — and all the subsequent psychological effects.
BSGS: What do you recommend to patients that are looking to reduce their cancer risk?
Dr. Emrani: I primarily tell patients to eat right, decrease their stress and have good exercise habits. They should keep red meat intake to a minimum, stay hydrated, and try to avoid processed foods.
BSGS: How has the internet helped you better treat or connect with patients?
Dr. Emrani: I use the internet to the max! Patients email me with medical questions about recommendations for procedures or examinations and I forward them links that they can study and learn from. An educated patient is empowered and heals better. I also use the internet to educate family members. I post regularly on Facebook. I blog. All this is aimed at making disease and screening discussions more meaningful.
BSGS: As an avid blogger, what value do you think social media provides to healthcare professionals and patients?
Dr. Emrani: I think it gives us a chance to communicate with patients, and it gives them a chance to read and educate themselves so they can figure out for themselves if they want to have a procedure done or if they want to get a second opinion. I always encourage patients to have a second opinion before we do anything invasive and social media has been tremendous help in that regard.
BSGS: What role does preventative care and early diagnosis play in the fight against disease?
Dr. Emrani: It’s about staying ahead of the curve. If you can prevent a disease, it is much better than trying to treat a disease that’s already metastasized. The earlier you diagnose somebody, the less damage is sustained, and the more chance you have to treat them with fewer potentially toxic medication and modalities that may themselves have harmful effects years later.
BSGS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Be Seen, Get Screened?
Dr. Emrani: Many people don’t follow up with their doctors regarding colon cancer screening. I think many people are shy because they are scared or worried about colonoscopies so they postpone the procedure. Unfortunately, sometimes by the time we get around to testing, we find that it is too late. Early screening for diabetes, heart disease, stroke prevention and common cancers is paramount in patient care. Our goal is prevention and early detection.