Newswise — In June 2018, Gregg Leakes, the husband of NeNe Leakes from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. Their story has been slowly unfolding over the tabloids, social media, and television, which has brought a lot of attention to colorectal cancer and treatment. While there is controversy over the public sharing of such personal information, we hope that stories like these inspire people to:
- get screened for colorectal cancer, and
- talk to their family members about their own colon or rectal cancer diagnosis.
Colorectal cancer was once a cancer type that people didn’t talk about – referencing the colon or rectum was totally taboo. But now, the stigma is slowly ebbing away, and people are sharing their truth and experience with this disease.
Fight CRC Immunotherapy Work Group Member on the Show
Dr. Scott Kopetz, an oncologist at MD Anderson in Houston, TX works closely with Fight Colorectal Cancer on a number of initiatives, including the Immunotherapy (IO) Work Group, patient education related to biomarkers and biomarker testing, and more. As Gregg Leakes’ doctor, Dr. Kopetz was filmed discussing the recommended treatments with the couple. Specifically, he discusses adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy after the initial surgery).
Because their story is in the spotlight, which makes it seemingly open for public comment, there has been a lot of back and forth about whether or not chemotherapy was the best option in this situation.
When it comes down to it, treatment decisions belong to the patient. Shared decision-making is incredibly important. It is a process where both the patient and provider contribute to the medical decision-making process. It involves a conversation of risks and benefits of treatments and the needs and beliefs of the patient. So while a health care provider may be the most knowledgeable about the treatment path which has shown to be most beneficial, that does not mean that is the option a patient must select.
We asked Dr. Kopetz about treatment decision-making. He commented that “The goals of the doctor are to inform and help find the right decision for the individual patient while reiterating that we are here to support the patient regardless of what path is chosen. There are no right or wrong paths, but individual paths that we are here as oncologists to support and reaffirm.”
Watch and Wait:
It is common for people to want to avoid chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. In fact, this approach is now being studied for certain rectal cancer patients, though it has not been recommended as the standard of care.
Chemotherapy works by targeting cells that grow and divide quickly. This includes cancer cells, but also other cells in the body (which is what leads to side effects). Chemotherapy is generally recommended after surgery for stage III colon cancer patients to improve survival by preventing the cancer from coming back (recurring).
However, there recently has been some debate to the duration of treatment. The standard used to be 6-months, however, new studies are suggesting that 3-months is not inferior. It’s true that chemo has a number of negative side effects that reduce quality of life, therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor about the right approach for you and your specific diagnosis.
Colorectal cancer is a preventable disease that can be treated when caught at its earliest stages. It can affect anyone, including the young and the old, all races and ethnicities, the working class, and even celebrities.
Even though you may not have your own reality show, you can still utilize your own platform to highlight just how important it is to prevent colorectal cancer amongst your community. Be sure to check out stories from Fight CRC advocates here! If you’re interested in sharing your own story, reach out to us!
Housewives and Colorectal Cancer
This was not the first time women from The Real Housewives have spoken out about colorectal cancer. Meghan & Heather from The Real Housewives of Orange County volunteered and walked the Capitol Hill halls alongside the other 125 advocates at Call-on Congress. Watch more of Meghan & Heather in D.C.