This doctor removes barriers to increase colon cancer screenings
Dr. Nimish Vakil, a gastroenterologist at Aurora Medical Center – Summit, is intent about spreading the word about colorectal cancer screenings.
“I think colon cancer should become one of the least common causes of cancer death because it’s so preventable,” he said, “Every year, I see one or two people with advanced colon cancer and they’re going to die and this to me is a needless death.”
To help prevent these deaths, Aurora Health Care have systems in place to remove barriers and increase access to colon cancer screenings. There are also outreach efforts to minority communities to bring people in for screenings. The Helping Hand program was also created to help those with cost constraints, said Dr. Vakil.
The results of these efforts were highlighted in a recent study by the Advocate Aurora Research Institute that found colorectal cancer rates are quickly rising in younger populations. Dr. Vakil was the lead author of the study, which looked at colorectal cancer detection rates at Aurora by analyzing confirmed cases using a cancer database from 1985 to 2017.
Nationally, African American and Hispanic patients can have poorer participation in screening programs and therefore have more advanced disease when they do visit a doctor. They also have poorer outcomes after treatment for colon cancer, according to the study.
“In our study of 10,000 people, we had significant numbers of African American and Hispanic subjects,” Dr. Vakil said. “They did not have poorer outcomes compared to other ethnic groups. They had good outcomes in our study, and we were not able to show any difference in outcomes between ethnic groups. We attribute the difference in our results and those recorded nationally to the integrated health care model. That means we have a model where we’re taking care of populations of patients and taking proactive steps to help with access to screening and health care.”
Dr. Vakil believes these proactive measures are important steps.
“A health care organization has a responsibility to provide care, but we also have a societal responsibility to reduce disparities in care, take away variability in care due to ethnicity, due to economics and due to economic factors” Dr. Vakil said, “I feel that the integrated care model is the most important thing we could be doing to remove disparities in gastroenterology outcomes so that regardless of your ethnicity or income we can have the same outcome.”
Dr. Vakil uses his expertise to spread awareness about the importance of screenings. Most recently, he helped share the story of one of his patients who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer despite having no symptoms. She received her first colonoscopy when she was 50 after losing a friend to colon cancer at the age of 47.
“We can’t say don’t do this and you won’t get colon cancer, but we can say get a colonoscopy and you will help prevent colon cancer,” Dr. Vakil said.
About the Author
Brittany Lewis is a media relations coordinator at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She previously worked as a reporter at TV stations around the Midwest, including Milwaukee. She studied at DePaul University where she majored in Journalism and Public Relations. Brittany enjoys traveling, hanging out by Lake Michigan, trying new restaurants and spending time with friends and family.