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Colorectal Cancer: Cutting-Edge Approach is Changing Outcomes for Patients

The good news about colorectal cancer is that the rate of new cases and deaths from the disease have dropped steadily for the last few decades. While that kind of progress means more people are avoiding and surviving colorectal cancer, there is still work to be done. Colorectal cancer remains deadly—it’s the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women and second in men—and there has been a slight uptick in young people diagnosed with the disease.

“Vigilance for early warning signs of the disease and regular screenings are still the gold standards for success in the battle against colorectal cancer,” said Steven Fassler, MD, director, Colorectal Surgery at Abington - Jefferson Health. “When you combine that vigilance with the technological advances we can offer, outcomes for patients are significantly better.”

What Should You Watch For?

Colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms immediately, but you may eventually experience changes related to your digestive system. If any of the following symptoms occur, you should get them checked by a doctor:

  • Changes in your bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of your stool
  • Feeling like you still need to have a bowel movement shortly after having one
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Fatigue and unintentional weight loss
  • Bright red blood on your toilet paper and rectal bleeding
  • Dark blood in your stool, which may make your stool look like tar

“Many conditions can cause these symptoms, including hemorrhoids, infections and IBS,” said Dr. Fassler. “It’s important not to self-diagnose, since you may miss an opportunity to catch cancer early.”

Advances in Technology Improve Treatment

In addition to greater awareness of colorectal cancer, which leads to early detection, Dr. Fassler and the team at Abington - Jefferson Health are using the latest advances in medical technology to provide better outcomes for patients. One of these advances is a surgical robot called the da Vinci Xi Surgical System.

Apprehensive about a robot working on some of your most sensitive body parts? Don’t be, advises Dr. Fassler.

“The da Vinci robot is controlled by your surgeon and provides even better precision than the surgeon’s hands alone,” said Dr. Fassler. “It also gives us the ability to use smaller incisions and be less invasive overall, which can speed recovery time and reduce discomfort.”

When caught early enough, Dr. Fassler and his team can cure people of their colorectal cancer by completely and precisely removing the malignant tissue. And, there’s no need for a permanent colostomy bag, which means patients return to normal life with little or no restrictions.

Combining Technology with Comprehensive Care

Colorectal cancer patients at Abington - Jefferson Health can have all their care coordinated by a nurse navigator, which means decisions about what needs to be done next during treatment are completely seamless.

“Our multidisciplinary team, which includes patient managers, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons and nurses, takes care of everything behind the scenes,” said Dr. Fassler. “This helps people focus on the most important part of their job as a patient—healing and recovering.”

If you’re experiencing any symptoms that may be related to your colorectal health, talk to your doctor right away. As with all cancers, early detection and treatment are the keys to survival.

Need a doctor? Call 215-481-MEDI (6334) to speak to a physician referral specialist.

Page last reviewed: February 1, 2018
Page last updated: February 1, 2018

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