Do you need help with a colon cancer diagnosis? Text COLON to 484848

October 20, 21 – “You have colon cancer.”

An estimated 150,000 people hear these words or something similar each year in the United States.

Even before the diagnosis, after the joys of bowel preparation and a colonoscopy, the patient may wake up dazed from the sedation and be told, “We have found something; I’ll call you in a few days when we have the pathological results. “

You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to understand that times of great emotional upheaval, stress, or insecurity are not ideal for decision-making, especially when the person asked to make a decision is faced with a challenge that may seem overwhelmingly complex and frightening .

Many patients’ first thoughts are looking for information online, but that too can be overwhelming. For example, a Google search for the words “colorectal cancer” returns approximately 134 million results in no less in six tenths of a second. These results can range from helpful and important, like the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer.Gov website, to stupid and downright dangerous, like a Facebook page promoting Aunt Tilly’s miracle mayonnaise cure for colon cancer. (OK, so we came up with the last one, but you got the idea.)

One of the most trusted online health websites is operated by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. It offers 11 tips for dealing with a cancer diagnosis, the first of which is “Get the Facts About Your Cancer Diagnosis”. This recommendation is the inspiration for the Colorectal Cancer Provider Outreach Program (CRC POP).

Text COLON to 484848

“There are 13,000 gastroenterologists in the country and we diagnose colon cancer 150,000 times a year,” said Brian Dooreck, MD, programmer for Memorial Healthcare System in Pembroke Pines, FL.

“What we have created with the outreach program for colorectal cancer providers is that gastroenterologists can now have a conversation with a patient – I can say, ‘Now listen, take out your phone and text the word COLON to 484848.” he says.

In a few seconds this gives a text with the words “You are not alone. You have our support. Here. Now “and a blue heart emoji followed by a link that takes the user to a webpage with a document with contact information for the American Cancer Society and other support organizations including the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Fight Colorectal Cancer, Colon Cancer Coalition, and Colon Cancer Foundation.

The organizations’ free resources include a 24/7 helpline, peer support online or in person, financial assistance, access to colorectal cancer screening for under and uninsured people in selected areas, and links to a colorectal cancer patient registration and information.

“I can tell patients, ‘Hey, listen, go home, call these groups, go to their websites. I’ll call you in a week, call me if you need me, we will find out together. This is a great place to get resources here and now. It’s a whole different shift than going home without anything other than a treatment plan, ”says Dooreck.

No profit – other than helping patients

The text-based service is free.

“There is no catch, there are no costs, there is no sale, it is not monetized. There is no gain other than helping people, ”says Dooreck.

Mark A. Lewis, MD, director of the gastrointestinal cancer program at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, UT, a self-administered rare cancer survivor, says the program can help newly diagnosed patients break the fog that can follow a cancer diagnosis.

“I think it’s a great initiative and it helps to standardize some of the guidelines we give these people,” he says.

Lewis has the rare perspective of seeing the problem from both the oncologist’s and the patient’s perspective: when he began his training as a hematology-oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in 2009, he was diagnosed with the rare syndrome of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, a inherited condition in which tumors grow in hormone-producing glands such as the thyroid or pancreas. He had an operation to remove tumors in the pancreas.

He says approval of CRC POP from large support organizations and gastroenterologists alike is important, as most colonoscopies and diagnoses of colon cancer are done in community facilities by doctors who may or may not have formal cancer center affiliations. rather than in large urban or suburban networks associated with medical schools.

In most cases, the gastroenterologist makes a cancer diagnosis and hands the patient over to a surgeon who can contact an oncologist and / or radiation oncologist depending on the patient’s situation. This process can take weeks, and in the meantime, patients are in suspense.

Offering patients multiple trusted resources through a simple text message is a particularly attractive part of the CRC POP initiative and can help patients have more control over their care, says Lewis.

Multidisciplinary care

The connection to the resources of the program is only part of the package of benefits that patients receive in major academic medical centers.

“Our approach to a newly diagnosed patient is a multidisciplinary visit,” said Caroline Kuhlman, a nurse at the Mass General Cancer Center in Boston.

Patients meet with a surgeon, oncologist, and sometimes radiation oncologist, she says. You will also receive written information and access to a patient resource center.

Patients may also be referred to other resources in the hospital system as needed, including nutritionists, social workers who can help them learn about social and financial support, and educational resources such as briefings about what to expect when they receive chemotherapy.

“We have in-house support services that we make available to patients when they either ask for it or when we discover that these services are an important part of their care,” says Kuhlman.

Likewise, at Intermountain Healthcare, patients newly diagnosed with cancer are contacted within 24 hours by Patient Navigators who will help manage concerns and expectations for their care and connect them to resources in both the hospital and the community.

Although their practices vary in size and scope, Dooreck, Lewis and Kuhlman all agree with the central message and purpose of CRC POP: “You are not alone. You have our support. “

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