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Ask an Oncology Expert with Dr. Gang Chen

March 10, 2022
Gang Chen, MD, PhD, is a medical oncologist and hematologist in the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC. Dr. Chen earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China. He completed his residency at MedStar Harbor Hospital, where he spent a year as Chief Resident, and is a clinical fellow in oncology and hematology with the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. Throughout his career, Dr. Chen has maintained interest in clinical research opportunities.

On March 9, Dr. Chen discussed the many risk factors, treatment options and preventative measures to take surrounding colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in women, the third most common in men, and has been diagnosed in younger patients now more than ever (with the average age of diagnosis being 66). Dr. Chen shared a variety of ways to treat, prevent and screen for colon cancer, and here are three important takeaways from this discussion.
  • The most important way to prevent and diagnose colon cancer is through a colonoscopy. People with an average risk (no family history or other health concerns) should get their first colonoscopy at age 45. Those with a first-degree family history (parent, sibling, child) should receive a colonoscopy at age 40. Some symptoms of colon cancer to look out for are dark or bloody stool, changes in your bowel movements, unexplained weight loss or abdominal pain. Dr. Chen suggests seeing your physician if these symptoms persist for two weeks.
  • There are various ways to treat colon cancer based on the stage and location of the cancer. Cancer sites can be on the right or left side of the colon, with the right posing a higher risk. About 75-80% of colon cancers are diagnosed locally to the bowel or lymph nodes and can be treated with surgery. Those with stage 3 or 4 colon cancer have a variety of drugs and immunotherapies available to them.
  • In addition to regular colonoscopies, there are other ways to prevent colon cancer. Dr. Chen suggests avoiding excess alcohol, red meat and processed food. Those with diabetes and obesity are considered to have "modifiable risks" that can be changed with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Dr. Chen also suggests 30-60 minutes of movement daily.
Dr. Chen feels the multidisciplinary teams in the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute are an excellent group to be a part of. The community can support Dr. Chen, his team, and, most importantly, oncology patients by donating to Oncology Support Services, supporting the new future home of the Berman Cancer Institute—the Sandra R. Berman Pavilion, which is part of The Promise Project or volunteering at GBMC.
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