A terrible health threat is attacking African Americans. The menace is colorectal cancer, a disease that kills Blacks more than any other ethnic group in the country. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that 17,240 new cancer cases will be diagnosed among Blacks in 2016.
The good news is colorectal cancer is preventable and Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colon and rectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is spreading that message throughout Los Angeles’ African American community.
Murrell outlined the various facts about the disease during a presentation at 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ on March 20. He explained that breast and prostate cancers are well known, however, few people realize that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women and the second overall cancer killer in America.
“The incidence of colorectal cancer has been decreasing for every race except African Americans. We are the only group in America where the incidence is increasing. We get it more often and when it’s diagnosed, it’s at a higher stage. We are also the group most likely to die from it,” said Murrell.
“But, it’s totally preventable. That’s why it’s frustrating when you have something that is preventable and people are still dying from it at a high rate.”
The increase among Blacks can be traced to factors such as access to care and the stigma of undergoing colon cancer screening, which is perceived by many as an uncomfortable, invasive procedure. In reality, Murrell said it is a simple and safe screening method.
Discussing the colonoscopy screening, Murrell noted, “Basically, you go to sleep, a tool is inserted in the rectum that travels throughout the colon looking for polyps. All colorectal cancer comes from polyps.
“You can remove these polyps during a colonoscopy and totally prevent colon cancer. If everyone got a colonoscopy when they were supposed to, it would actually decrease colon cancer by 80 percent or more.”
Patients can also request a fecal occult blood test from their health care provider. The procedure involves testing stool samples for blood to determine if any cancer cells exist. Still, Murrell believes having a colonoscopy is the best examination.
“That’s the only test that can actually diagnose, and more importantly, prevent colon cancer. It is a very simple, very safe procedure that can save your life,” said Murrell.
Also, during the service, Logan Williams, associate director for Community Health and Education for Cedars Sinai presented the Community Service Award to Pastor Anthony Williams for working with the hospital for the past 26 years on preventative health events. The program started with the late Bishop Benbow, church founder.
In addition, Pastor Williams led a special prayer for Dr. Murrell’s success in educating people about preventing colorectal cancer.
To learn more about Dr. Murrell and colorectal cancer prevention, visit lacolonrectalsurgeon.com.