Legacy in the News: Legacy Cancer Institute reports high rates of late-stage colorectal cancer cases being diagnosed in the Emergency Room

KGW Newschannel 8, KATU News, KPTV Fox 12, Portland Business Journal, The Columbian, Gresham Outlook

July 24, 2014
Legacy Cancer Institute recently released data on the number of late-stage colorectal cancer cases being diagnosed as a result of emergency department admissions. Often times, when patients are having symptoms severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, the cancer is already at stage III or IV, when it is more likely to be deadly. Legacy Cancer Institute is releasing these numbers to educate the public about the importance of cancer screening and not ignoring the warning signs of colorectal cancer.

At Legacy Health overall, 48 percent of all stage IV colorectal cancer cases and 30 percent of all stage III were diagnosed as a result of an emergency room visit. Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center had the highest rates.   “We are releasing this data today in hopes of educating the community about the importance of getting screened and the possible warning signs of colorectal cancer,” said Joe Frankhouse, M.D., medical director of the Colorectal Cancer Center at Legacy Good Samaritan and colorectal surgeon with Legacy Medical Group–Gastrointestinal Surgery. “These numbers tell a story and it is our hope the public will learn from it – get screened, pay attention to your body, and don’t wait.”

Harald Schoeppner, M.D., medical director and GI specialist at Legacy Medical Group-Gastroenterology in Gresham, Ore., spearheaded Legacy’s process of tracking this data after he noticed a trend of patients in his clinic who were diagnosed with late stage colon cancer after being admitted into the emergency room.

He explains, “I wanted to see if the data supported what I was seeing in my own clinic and when I saw the hard numbers I was astonished. By shining the light on these staggering numbers, it is our hope that people will realize the importance of getting their colonoscopy, listen to their body and call their doctor right away if they see possible warning signs.”

The Importance of Getting Screened
Legacy Cancer Institute, along with many other national experts, recommends that most people begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50.

However, there are some exceptions:
• African-Americans, who have a higher risk for colorectal cancer than other ethnic groups, should begin screening at age 45.
• Anyone with a blood relative who had colorectal, ovarian or uterine cancer has an increased risk for colorectal cancer. Screening should begin 10 years before the age at which his or her family member was diagnosed, or at age 40, whichever comes first. If you have questions or concerns about the genetics (hereditary factors) of colorectal cancer, you may want to talk with a genetics counselor, such as Legacy Genetics Services.
• If you have other risk factors, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, or a history of colorectal polyps, talk with your health care provider about when to get screened.

If you don't have significant risk factors, your health care provider may recommend one of the following:
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Yearly stool blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Yearly stool blood test plus a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Double contrast barium enema every five years

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs
Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms. But if you experience any of the following symptoms, tell your health care provider:
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits that last for more than a few days, including diarrhea or constipation 
  • The urge to have a bowel movement that is not relieved once complete 
  • Bleeding, stools that are dark or contain blood. However, sometimes stool may still look normal
  • Pain or cramping in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Inadvertent weight loss
The majority of these symptoms may be signs of other conditions including infections, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t wait to call your doctor so the cause can be found and treated as soon as possible.

Click here to watch KGW’s story.

Click here to watch KPTV’s story. 

Click here to watch KATU’s story.

Click here to read Portland Business Journal’s story.

Click here to read The Columbian’s story.

Click here to read The Gresham Outlook's story.