Colorectal Cancer Issues: An Update with Doctors Michael Wong and Charles Brown

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Doctors Michael Wong and Charles Brown discuss issues concerning new methods of detecting and treating colorectal cancer.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we will be discussing Colorectal Cancer Issues: An Update with Michael K.K. Wong, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P.C., and Charles K. Brown, M.D., Ph.D.

Charles K. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., is an NIH-funded biologic therapy fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also currently working with Dr. Michael Wong in the research of molecular angiogenesis at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Brown is widely published and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ethicon Endo-Surgery Education Grant Award in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and Laparoscopy and the Walt Oppelt Memorial Award for Excellence in Pharmacology and Therapeutics. His professional activities include the American College of Surgeons Candidate Group and the Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service. His current research involves investigating the binding of ligopeptides with tumor-derived endothelial cells.

Michael K.K. Wong, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P.C., is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh/UPMC Health System. He is also affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Extensively published, Wong is the recipient of numerous honors, including the National Cancer Institute of Canada's post-M.D. fellowship. His professional activities include the American Society for Cancer Research and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Wong's current clinical research focuses on molecular angiogenesis.

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Dr. Brown, Dr. Wong, welcome back to WebMD Live.

Dr. Wong: Thank you.

Dr. Brown: Thank you.

Moderator: What is the colon, and how does it work within the digestive system?

Dr. Brown: The colon is essentially the last portion of the digestive system and of the alimentary tract. It functions to reabsorb water from the digested material that has passed through the small intestine. Also waste elimination and waste storage.

Moderator: What is colorectal cancer?

Dr. Wong: The colon is lined by colorectal cells and what cancer is, is basically a uncontrolled growth of these cells. And these cells are malignant and what that means is they grow without respect to any borders and that's why they can go right through the colon and into the neighboring structures into the abdominal cavity. They can also break off and go to other parts of the body, known as metastasis.

Moderator: What causes colorectal cancer?

Dr. Brown: There are many causes for colorectal cancer. The main associated risk is a high fat, low fiber diet. There are also other individuals who are at risk for colon cancer, including those with a family history of colon cancer. Other risk factors include age and that is because your risk of colon cancer increases as your age increases. There's people with a history of polyps also are at risk. Finally people with a history of inflammatory bowel disease also known as ulcerative colitis are also at risk. The other large category of individuals that are also at significant risk are those that can inherit a genetic defect which puts them at high risk to develop colon cancer in their lifetime. These are known as FAT and HNPCC which are short forms that stand for two types of hereditary genetic diseases.

Moderator: What can people do to prevent these types of digestive health problems?

Dr. Brown: I think the best prevention that has been advocated by the health professionals is a low fat, high fiber diet. We cannot stress enough the importance of this particular aspect of the diet in preventing colon cancer. What we're really talking about is changing your lifestyle and an example of that is eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A serving is like a banana or an orange or an apple or a full cup of lettuce.

Moderator: What are some of the warning signs of colorectal cancer?

Dr. Brown: Most of the time there are no real warning signs. Most colon cancers are silent. There are some symptoms that people have reported such as blood found in the stool. There are also changes in bowel habits and also changes in the consistency of the stool. These have been reported as signs associated with colon cancer. The most common sign and symptom is no symptom at all. It is important to stress routine screening for people who are at risk for colon cancer.