YOTNM Ep. 2: March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month

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Hear a personal journey of the importance of timely health screenings to proactively manage your health and wellbeing. Kathleen McGrow, DNP, CNIO, RN, MS, discusses Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in Episode 2 of Year of the Nurse & Midwife series.

Claire: You're watching the Microsoft US health and life Sciences confessions of health geeks podcast. A show the offers industry insight from the health geeks and data freaks of the US health and life Sciences industry team. I'm your host, Claire Bonaci. As a part of the ongoing year of the nurse and midwife series, Kathleen McGrow, our Chief Nursing Information Officer will talk about the month of March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. We will talk about how to overcome barriers to screening alternative screening methods for the future and why Kathleen is such an advocate for this cause. Enjoy the show.

Thanks for joining Kathleen, how are you doing. so I know March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and we do have a lot to unpack and talk about. So Kathleen since you are a passionate advocate for colon cancer screening, do you mind telling us a little bit about that and why?


Kathleen: Sure, thanks for having me Claire. I really appreciate it. For National Colon Cancer Awareness month, which as you know is the month of March I wanted to talk to you and send the message out to folks to be proactive and for people to get their colonoscopies. Which used to be at age 50 and has since 2018 been changed by the American Cancer Society, lowered its recommended screening to start at age 45.


Claire: So what made you decide to get tested at age 50?


Kathleen: So I'm at age 50. I thought, you know, I just wanted to be proactive. I'm a nurse. I like to try to make sure that I do what I need to do within my health care regimen. So I just went ahead. I scheduled my routine colonoscopy. I mean, I had my first colonoscopy right around age 50. It was actually at my 50th birth month and they had some findings that were positive, which was kind of a surprise for me. I do not have any family history of colon cancer in my family. When my doctor phoned me the first time, it was just to say that I had questionable pathology and he was going to send it out for further testing.


Claire: Wow, thanks so much for sharing. So can you talk a little bit more about that process and anyone you know that has also gone through something similar?


Kathleen: Sure, absolutely. So like I said, this was purely a check the box item for me. I figured up I wouldn't have to have it. You know, for 10 years and I do not have any family history of colon cancer. I was really surprised when I got that. You have cancer call. Not only that, you have 2 different types of cancer. So these can be started, something that you don't even know about. I was asymptomatic. I didn't have any problems or any issues. So through routine colonoscopy just screening. They actually found something that really could have been life threatening and detrimental to me. I actually do know of friends that you know, have waited till they're in their later 50s and have been diagnosed with Stage 3 in Stage 4 cancers, which as you know are much more difficult to treat and my provider told me if I had waited another 2 or 3 years I would have been much farther along and not had the good results that I had based on the types of cancers that I had.


Claire: Wow, that does really show the importance of just the education. The patient education that you had to know that to go get screened and you know what you have to do. so you've been cancer free for 4 years now, that's amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about what advancements you're seeing in testing or diagnosis and the care pathway with this?


Kathleen: Sure, you know what I'm getting to here is that I felt fine. I was just getting a routine check and I know for a lot of people it's really scary to think about the testing that you have to go through and the preparation for colonoscopy especially so I think that there are other things that will be coming along. Technology will be a game changer. I think if you had just even a blood test that you could do that could potentially identify a cancer that you may have and then kind of move on to the next steps of what you might need diagnostically. Um, it really would make a big difference, and it would make it much more pleasant. And more convenient for the patients.


Claire: You've mentioned a little bit in the past of some of the testing that you can do in home and then send out and get at least a little bit of results to determine if you need to get a screening.


Kathleen: That is correct. There are tests that they can actually send them to your home. I do not qualify for them now because I have had cancer, but for someone going in at 45 for a routine screening, they could actually do tested him, mail it back in, and then they'll get the results. And like I said, I do think that there are organizations that are working on other testing that can be done to kind of take the heavy lift of having the prep and the colonoscopy. You have to take 2 days off of work for the one for the prep and one for the procedure. and I think people really think about that. So that kind of is a deterrent for them. But I must say that it's really worth your time because you want to maintain yourself and be healthy, and it's better to know earlier than to not know until too late.


Claire: Yeah, that's very true. The barriers to care are a huge issue and obviously patients need to work with their doctor for finding options that fit their routine, their personal preference and comfort level. So I know that there's also a lot of genetic testing going on in the market right now. Do you feel that this is relevant in this space?


Kathleen: Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I actually had genetic testing done. I was in a study out of University of Sharp Memorial in the late 2000s, late 2000 like 7 or 8 and when I went back and looked at my genetic screening at the time I actually passed test it at high risk for Colon Carcinoma and I remember looking at my test when I got them back. At that time I didn't pick up on that and I really didn't even think anything about that. So obviously there was something there that I should have probably paid attention to, so I'm very grateful that. But at least being proactive in going during my, you know birth year for that, age 50, was so important that I tried to be proactive.


Claire: And so what do you want to leave listeners with as we closeout?


Kathleen: I think that I just wanted to tell my story. I'm totally clear now, but I highly advocate screenings and I tried to advocate when I talk to people when they tell me most people say I'm afraid or it takes too much time. So I try to tell them my story. My hope is one day is that will be able to have other options versus going through an entire prep and procedure. Something that maybe fits within folks routine or their personal preference and comfort level. I think doctors can guide you, but ultimately you need to be proactive. Be proactive and advocate for the option that suits you best. This will empower you as a person and as a patient. So I think working with health care professionals we can kind of overcome some of the barriers to

screening and improve access to alternative screening methods, I'd say my final messages: Please be proactive with your health. Get your colonoscopy when due don't put it off or delay it could save your life.


Claire: Great, well thank you so much Kathleen. I'm so glad you're cancer free now and I'm so happy that you're on the team and you're such an advocate for this. So thank you for talking to us today.

Thank you all for watching For more information and resources on colorectal cancer, visit the colorectal cancer alliance website at www.ccalliance.org. We look forward to continuing the year of the nurse series next month with episode 3. Please feel free to leave us questions or comments below and check back soon for more content from the HLS industry team.


Kathleen McGrow, DNP, CNIO, RN, MS

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