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Joanna Gibson, MD, PhD, on Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March 01, 2022

In recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Joanna Gibson, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Director of Quality and Patient Safety at Yale Pathology, explains how Yale Pathologists collaborate with Smilow Cancer Hospital oncologists to determine the best therapeutic course for patients.

During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, what do you feel is the most important message to share with our community?

Screening for colorectal cancer saves lives. The American cancer society recommends that patients with average risk of colorectal cancer start screening for colorectal cancer at ag 45. I recommend patients talk to their doctor about options for screening.

What risk factors can we control to help prevent colorectal cancer and why is it important for younger people to be aware of these factors?

Many studies site regular physical activity and a balanced diet high in fiber (fruit, vegetables) as being protective against colorectal cancer. If a smoker, smoking cessation is also important. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, consider starting screening colonoscopy at a younger age than recommended.

How do you keep your colleagues and students engaged and learning from one another?

Collaborating on research studies that explore various clinical, molecular, and pathologic aspects colorectal cancer. I try to find trainees (medical students, residents, or fellows) who can partner with me on research projects.

How do you collaborate with oncologists at Smilow Cancer Hospital to care for patients with colorectal cancer?

There are so many ways that pathologists collaborate with our oncology colleagues to care for patients with colorectal cancer. At Smilow Cancer Hospital, there are multiple tumor boards, including one for colorectal cancer, where challenging patient diagnoses are reviewed with input from pathology, oncology, surgery, and other specialty physicians, to allow for discussion on the best therapeutic course. We also have ongoing research collaborations with Smilow Cancer Center with weekly seminar series of the Center for GI Cancers and monthly meetings of the Colorectal Cancer Steering Committee.

How do you envision treatment for colorectal cancer will advance in the next 10 to 20 years?

There will be more personalized treatment options for colorectal cancer treatment based on molecular diagnostic features, additional methods of screening with broader use across communities and better understanding of the causes of colorectal cancer and how it can be prevented.

Submitted by Terence P. Corcoran on March 01, 2022