Newswise — MAYWOOD, Ill. (May 15, 2014) Patients at increased risk for gastrointestinal cancer now have access to a new multidisciplinary program at Loyola University Health System. The Loyola University Medical Center Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk Assessment Program is designed for patients with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer and other related GI cancers. In this program, gastroenterologists, surgeons, genetic counselors and various other specialties collaborate to provide state-of-the-art care for these patients.

“The Loyola program promotes early, targeted intervention which improves treatment options and reduces morbidity and mortality for our patients,” says Omar Khan, MD, assistant professor of medicine, division of Gastroenterology & Nutrition and co-director of the new program. “Screening and follow-up are consolidated and simplified, reducing multiple clinic visits. We promote research of rare and complex disorders through our voluntary registry and, while partnering with support groups, improve education and communication with patients, families and providers who care for them.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Illinois ranks as one of the highest states for incidence of colorectal cancer. Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America. 72 percent of cases arise in the colon and 28 percent are located in the rectum. “Inherited colorectal cancer syndromes can be quite complex and challenging to treat,” says Josh Eberhardt, MD, FACS, FASCRS, surgeon, division of colon and rectal surgery and co-director of the new Loyola program. “Physicians not only have to think about the patient that is sitting in front of them but their relatives and even their potential offspring. Physicians need to effectively treat the problem that has arisen and subsequently try to prevent future related problems. Loyola is one of the only places in the Chicago area that offers such a multidisciplinary approach for the care of these hereditary GI cancers and syndromes.”

A key component of the program is the use of genetic evaluation, which includes a comprehensive review of the personal and family cancer history as well as the possibly of genetic testing. “People who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or a parent, with colon cancer have two to three times the risk of developing the disease. About 5-10 percent of colorectal cancer is hereditary,” says Kristen Barker Grill, MS, CGC, genetic counselor. “Through genetic evaluation, we can help safeguard the health of patients and their family members with proactive healthcare. The most rewarding aspect is empowering patients to take control of their cancer risk.”

The Loyola University Medical Center Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk Assessment Program is located on the Loyola Medical Center campus in Maywood, Illinois. For more information, contact (708) 216-0464