Entries in Colorectal Cancer (13)


Colon Cancer Among 'Least Prevented'

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Karen Witkus took the prescription, folded it up and tucked it in her wallet. She didn't want to think about the colonoscopy it would procure.

"I heard horror stories about it," said Witkus, 55, imagining the probing test and the gut-cleansing preparation it required. "I kept delaying and before you know it, it had been in my wallet for three years."

A colonoscopy is a procedure in which doctors view the inside of the colon with a small camera to spot and remove pre-cancerous growths called polyps before they turn into deadly tumors. It's the most sensitive of three colon cancer screening tests recommended for men and women over the age of 50, but nearly half of all eligible adults skip the tests altogether, according to a 2009 study.

As a result, colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 Americans annually, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to 60 percent of those deaths are preventable through screening, the agency says.

Dr. David Johnson, chief of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and past president of the American College of Gastroenterology says reasons for the low screening rates vary.

"One reason is that the test may not be covered by the patient's insurance," he said, alluding to insurance plans that are unaffected by the Affordable Care Act, which mandates coverage of colorectal cancer screening. Only 29 states and the District of Columbia have mandated that insurance plans cover colorectal cancer screening tests. "Another reason is that patients simply never have the conversation with their doctor."

Then there are people like Witkus, who despite having a referral and insurance coverage forgo the test out of fear. A colonoscopy requires that patients drink a gallon of bad-tasting laxative to cleanse the bowel, making polyps more visible. Patients miss up to two days of work – one for the pre-procedure doctor's visit and bowel prep and another for the procedure itself.

Although the benefits of a colonoscopy far outweigh the inconvenience and discomfort, doctors and researchers have nonetheless been searching for easier and more acceptable alternatives. One such test is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Developed by Exact Sciences, the stool-based screen detects changes in DNA as well as traces of blood that signal the presence of pre-cancerous polyps or cancers of the colon.

"I believe we have a significant opportunity to play a role in winning the battle against colon cancer," said Exact Sciences president and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Conroy, citing results from a recent clinical trial that suggest the stool-based test can detect 65 percent of polyps measuring 2 centimeters or more. "Colon cancer is the most preventable yet least prevented cancer. ... There is a significant need for something different."

Johnson, who was involved in the trial, agrees.

"Anything that brings more people into the screening pool, I'm all for," he said. He hopes the new test will play a "sizable role in increasing the options for screening," but cautions, "the best screening test is still the colonoscopy."

 When Witkus finally had her colonoscopy three years after getting the prescription. She was shocked to learn that she had colon cancer. Had she undergone the test at age 50, her cancer and subsequent surgery to remove 6 centimeters of bowel would have likely been avoided, her doctors told her.

Witkus did undergo screening with fecal occult blood testing two years before her colonoscopy and said she had no problem with the more convenient and less-invasive test. The test was negative but is known to miss the majority of polyps. She hopes that an accurate but minimally invasive test will one day be available, adding that the colonoscopy prep was the worst part.

While the new test is far from perfect, Johnson said he believes it could be refined to improve its sensitivity. But there are other unknowns, including the cost of the test and whether insurers will cover it. Approval by Medicare often triggers other insurance providers to cover the test, but if it's too expensive, the test might struggle to gain acceptance in an increasingly cost-conscious healthcare market. However, the potential to prevent cancer in more people and avoid costly treatment will certainly help its case. The cost of treating colon cancer exceeded $14 billion in 2010, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Thankfully doctors were able to remove Witkus' cancer before it was too late. But she knows that she was lucky.

"I talk to everybody I can now about colon cancer," she said. Her advice? "Definitely get the colonoscopy."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Fearing Cancer, Woman with Lynch Syndrome Has Colon Removed

Courtesy Lynne Fisher(NEW YORK) -- What would you do to reduce the chance of dying of cancer?  How far would you go if you had a 70 to 90 percent chance of contracting bowel cancer -- and your uncle, mother, father and two of your brothers had died from it?

Lynne Fisher decided she would do almost anything.  So, even though she showed no signs of cancer at all, Fisher, 51, a former mental health worker, agreed to undergo what might sound like a radical surgery: doctors removed nearly her whole colon and rerouted her small intestine to perform the functions of her large intestine.

The side effects were horrific, she said.  For a year, Fisher struggled to control her bowel movements.  She fought depression, and she hated her large scars and the 28 staples that had been left in her body.  Her Multiple Sclerosis returned.

"When you're in it, it's like a dark tunnel," she told ABC News in a long phone conversation about her medical history.

But then, one day, she realized the surgery had helped saved her life.  And since then, she's never looked back.

"What's a year out of your life compared to dying?" Fisher said from her home in central England.  "I get to watch my dogs grow up, my children grow up, my grandchild, I get to see my cherry blossoms in the tree, I get to see the sun shining in the morning, I get to go on holiday -- I get to see life."

Genes that cause breast cancer have been discussed widely for years.  But less well known is Lynch syndrome, the gene mutation that Fisher and her much of her family inherited.

It's unclear how many Americans have Lynch syndrome, but up to 7 percent of colon cancers occur in people with the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.  It's also unclear how many Americans choose to have the surgery that Fisher had: prophylactic subtotal colectomy, which doctors describe as a major surgery that, while elective, can often save lives.

"A person will select the option of sub-total colectomy because the entire colon is at very high risk for cancer," said Dr. Henry Lynch, who discovered Lynch syndrome in the 1960s and is now the chairman of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Creighton University and the director of Creighton's Hereditary Cancer Center.  "Lynch syndrome goes from one generation to the next.  And it has an early age of onset in colon cancer."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


To Prevent Colon Cancer, Get Your Butt to the Doctor

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Colorectal cancer -- cancer of the colon or rectum -- is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet, it’s one of the most treatable cancers there is, even in its later stages.

ABC News’ chief health and medical correspondent Dr. Richard Besser held a tweet chat on Monday to raise awareness on how to prevent and treat colon and rectal cancer.  His special guest was ABC talk show host Katie Couric, whose husband, Jay Monahan, died of the disease in 1998.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden and chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society Dr. Otis Brawley tweeted their thoughts, along with experts from the National Institutes of Health; the Colon Cancer Alliance; Mayo Clinic; New York University Langone Medical Center; and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Here are four things the experts say you must know about keeping your colon happy and healthy:

1. Get Screened

Most colon cancers begin as polyps, lumps growing on the lining of the colon wall that can develop into cancer.  Regular screening after the age of 50 is essential for detecting and removing these polyps before they become cancerous.

“Roughly six of 10 deaths from colon cancer could be prevented if everyone age 50+ got screened routinely,” Frieden tweeted.

If your test comes back clean, you won’t need another one for 10 years.  However, if your test shows abnormalities, you should be screened more often.

2. Colonoscopies Aren’t that Bad

The preferred method of screening is colonoscopy in which a doctor gently inserts a long, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end into your rectum to scope out signs of cancer.  The test itself is no big deal.  You’re under anesthetic and won’t feel a thing.

Prep is another matter.  Before the test you need to clean out your colon by drinking copious amounts of a vile-tasting liquid, then retiring to the bathroom for the better part of a day.

3. Don’t Die of Embarrassment

“There may be blood in stool, a change in bowel habits, diarrhea or a change in weight,” experts from the NIH noted.

Experts from Dana Farber added, “A month or more narrowing of the stools, straining, change in stool shape are all symptoms of bowel problems.”

As many of the tweeters noted, people often ignore these symptoms or are too embarrassed to talk to the doctor about them.

4. Know the Risks

Age is an important risk factor.  Colon and rectal cancers most often strike people over the age of 50, but the disease can strike at any age.  Although anyone can get colorectal cancer, it’s deadliest for minorities, because they’re less likely to get tested or seek treatment, the experts from the Colon Cancer Alliance said.  If someone in your family has had colon cancer, this increases your risk too.

As several tweeters noted, Lynch syndrome -- an inherited condition -- puts someone at increased risk of colon cancer and other cancers.  Doctors estimate that about three out of every 100 colon cancers stem from Lynch syndrome, and the disease often occurs at an earlier age.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Kicks Off with Inflatable Colon in NY

Courtesy YORK) -- A giant inflatable colon was on display in New York City's Times Square on Friday to kick off National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The 20-foot, walk-through colon with 3-dimensional representations of Crohn's disease, colorectal polyps and the different stages of colon cancer is officially called the Prevent Cancer Super Colon.  It has been displayed around the country for years to draw attention to colon issues and get people talking

Colorectal cancer, the combined name for colon and rectal cancers, is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates that about 143,000 new cases will be diagnosed by the end of 2013.  Colorectal cancer is expected to cause nearly 51,000 deaths in the U.S. this year alone.

Symptoms can include bloody stools, persistent stomach pain or irregular bowel movements that don't go away.  And there's an embarrassment factor that can keep patients from going to the doctor, said Dr. Jordan Berlin, a gastrointestinal oncologist at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

"In Canada, there's a promotion to get people to go to colon cancer screenings that had naked butts on billboards," Berlin said.  "They're trying to say, yes, you're embarrassed to talk about it, but it is it really worth risking your life not to talk about this?"

He said colorectal cancer is one of the top five causes of rectal bleeding, but it's the fifth one.

"It's the one you don't want to miss," he said.

Still, he said attitudes are slowly shifting toward more openness about colon problems as people learn that colonoscopies aren't "that bad."  A colonoscopy is a 30-minute test in which a doctor inserts a tube with a camera on the end of it into the patient's anus to check the entire colon for cancerous or precancerous growths.  The patient, of course, is sedated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine colonoscopies for people over the age of 50.  However, younger people with other risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer, polyps or Crohn's disease, should also get routine screenings.

"You don't have to be 50," said Carlea Bauman, president of Fight Colorectal Cancer, a national advocacy group that kicked off its most recent awareness campaign with the giant colon in Times Square.  

"We're trying to raise awareness among the general population," she said.  "When people are diagnosed early, it's very survivable.  When people are diagnosed late, it's far less survivable.  It can make the difference between life and death."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Campaign Urges People to Get Screened for Colon Cancer

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and a new campaign is urging people to get tested for this fatal, but preventable disease.

The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health in New York City‘s “Make That Call” Campaign stresses the importance that people 50 and older get screened. The screening is simple, painless and can be life-saving, as early detection is crucial to surviving colorectal cancer.

Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.  In 2013, 143,000 people will be diagnosed and 50,000 will not survive the disease. The statistics are startling, especially considering that the disease is preventable. The key is early detection through proper screening.

Director of the Jay Monahan Center, Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman stresses that everyone over the age of 50 should get screened, but that younger people are still at risk and should be mindful of the symptoms. If you are experiencing bloating, unexpected weight gain, change in bowel habits, or blood in your stool, it is time to make an appointment.

The Jay Monahan Center was co-founded by ABC’s Katie Couric, and named after her late husband who passed away after a battle with colon cancer in 1998. The clinic focuses on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support for people suffering from gastrointestinal cancers.

For more information, visit

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Experimental Drug Trains Immune System to Shrink Tumors

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An experimental cancer drug successfully shrank tumors in patients with different kinds of cancer, including typically hard-to-treat lung cancers, according to a new study. Oncologists said the research was encouraging, but more study was needed to know whether the drug would prolong life for cancer patients.

The study, led by Dr. Suzanne Topalian, was presented today at the Super Bowl of cancer professionals, a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a small, early phase study, researchers used a drug targeting a portion of the body's immune system, a pathway called PD-1, which usually works to stop the body from fighting cancerous tumors. By shutting down the pathway, the drug stokes the body's immune system to fight tumor cells.

Researchers gave the drug to nearly 240 patients with advanced melanoma, colorectal, prostate, kidney and lung cancers. All the patients had tried up to five other treatments, which failed. After up to two years on the drug, tumors shrank in 26 of 94 patients with melanoma, nine of 33 patients with kidney cancer and 14 of 76 patients with lung cancer.

The drug was not without side effects. About 14 percent of patients in the trial reported conditions such as skin rashes, diarrhea or breathing problems.

Alan Kravitz, 70, took the drug for two years to treat his melanoma, which had been diagnosed in the spring of 2007. He said the drug gave him a sunburn that lasted for two months and some mild fatigue. But the tumors that had spread to his lungs were gone.

"My first CT scans showed that the tumors in my lungs basically disappeared," he said. "It enabled my own immune system to kill the tumors. Quite an amazing drug."

Cancer specialists said the fact that the drug caused tumors to shrink, rather than simply to stop growing, is an important measure of success.

"Traditionally in cancer medicine, a tumor that shrinks is an indication that you're killing the cancer," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology and oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La.

To see that kind of success against several different kinds of cancer, particularly against melanoma, kidney and lung cancers, which are notoriously unresponsive to many of the usual treatments doctors use to thwart them, was also unusual.

David Grobin, 62, a retired Baltimore police officer, underwent nearly three years of unsuccessful chemotherapy and radiation for his lung cancer before taking the drug in February 2011. Now, he said his tumors hadn't totally disappeared, but they are much smaller than they were.

"How lucky can a person be? This is better than anything that I have had before," Grobin said.

"To see this kind of response in cancers that are so difficult to treat is very encouraging," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

The study did not show whether patients lived longer after taking the drug, but experts said early phases of drug trials typically aren't designed to determine improvements in survival. As scientists study the drug in larger numbers of patients for longer periods of time, the drug's success in prolonging life for cancer patients will become clearer.

Lichtenfeld also noted that early trials of drugs are intended to show whether a drug is safe, and don't usually find impressive numbers of patients who respond to the drug. To see those numbers emerging early in drug trials is encouraging, he said.

The difference in the drug's early success may lie in the approach it takes in delivering targeted cancer therapy. Cancer researchers have been chasing more targeted ways to deliver cancer treatments for decades now, in search of a method more refined than the "slash, burn and poison" approaches available with traditional surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Usually, targeted therapies hone in on a particular part of the cancer itself – a particular kind of cell or a process vital to a tumor's survival.

The current drug is a different because it targets the body's own immune system, training it to recognize tumor cells as foreign, malicious agents.

"In spite of everything we've done so far with cancer drugs, chemotherapy and the rest, what could be more powerful than having the body's own immune system attack the cancer?" said Dr. Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center.

Still, doctors remain cautiously optimistic about the drug's early promise.

"In all new studies, there's usually a lot of optimism and hope, but this should all be tempered with a dose of realism," Brooks said. "What's initially reported may not necessarily pan out with time."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Robin Gibb's Coma Recovery Not So Unusual, Docs Say

Frank Hoensch/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Robin Gibb's spectacular recovery from a coma has "confounded" even his doctors, his rep says, but doctors say while there is still much that is unknown about comas, advanced testing and new aggressive treatments mean many more patients stand a chance of waking up from them.

"Waking up from a coma is not as unusual as some people think," Dr. Jennifer Berkeley, a Baltimore-based neurologist who specializes in neuro critical care, told ABC News. "It always depends on the cause. When people don't wake up is usually when they've had a specific injury. When they are very ill medically, like Robin Gibb, it can go either way."

In Gibb's case, the news was good. The Bee Gee awoke from his coma over the weekend and is showing signs of recovery.

"Robin is fully conscious, lucid and able to speak to his loved ones. He is breathing on his own, with an oxygen mask. He is on intravenous feeding and antibiotics. He is of course, exhausted, extremely weak and malnourished," Dr. Andrew Thillainayagam, his physician and gastroenterologist, said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Gibb has advanced colorectal cancer and had received aggressive chemotherapy treatment as well as two emergency operations in the space of two months, Thillainayagam said. In his weakened condition, he developed pneumonia but failed to respond to intravenous antibiotics. He was transferred to intensive care, where he fell into a coma.

"The prognosis was very grave, given that Robin had brain swelling from liver failure, a severe pneumonia and a weakened immune system from malnutrition," Thillainayagam said in his statement. "Only three days ago, I warned Robin's wife, Dwina, son, Robin-John and brother, Barry, that I feared the worst. We felt it was very likely that Robin would succumb to what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to any form of meaningful recovery. As a team, we were all concerned that we might be approaching the realms of futility.

"It is testament to Robin's extraordinary courage, iron will and deep reserves of physical strength that he has overcome quite incredible odds to get where he is now," the statement continued.

Perhaps so, but "miraculous" recoveries like Gibb's are becoming more common.

"There are still cases where we are confounded, but we have moved away from just standing there and feeling helpless and a lot of guesswork," said Dr. Romer Geocadin, a neurologist who specializes in neuro critical care at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. "If we can get it at the right time, there are real hopes. We're starting to see the benefits of aggressive care."

Geocadin said in the case of a coma -- a state in which a person is unable to respond to internal and external stimulation -- doctors first look to see what is impairing the person's arousal and begin treating the underlying causes.

"For instance, if it's just an issue of oxygenation or a drop in blood pressure, you start correcting those to see if the brain will take that up and nourish itself back again," Geocadin said.

In Gibb's case, his doctor said they treated his acute medical problems "very aggressively."

As for the road to full recovery, Thillainayagam is making no promises.

"The road ahead for Robin remains uncertain but it is a privilege to look after such an extraordinary human being," he said in his statement.

"I tell all my patients it's a long bumpy road," said Berkeley, adding that research has found that patients coming out of a coma after a widespread infection are never cognitively exactly as they were before.

And with an underlying disease, like metastatic colon cancer, Gibb will continue to be susceptible to recurrent pneumonia and other infections.

No doubt, he will be relying on his family to help him through, as they did while he was in a coma. According to Thillainayagam, Dwina and Gibb's three children, sons Robin-John and Spencer and daughter Melissa were at his bedside every day, talking to him and playing his favorite music.

"They have been tireless in their determination never to give up on him," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can an Aspirin a Day Keep Cancer Away?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A daily aspirin may cut your risk of cancer, new research suggests. But doctors advise that there's no reason for everyone to start taking it -- at least not yet.

In three studies published in the Lancet and the Lancet Oncology on Tuesday, British researchers analyzed data from more than 50 studies and found that those who took daily aspirin for at least three years were less likely to develop cancer -- and if they did, it tended to be less advanced. Patients who took daily aspirin were 36 percent less likely to be diagnosed with metastatic cancer, or cancer that had already spread throughout their body.

Additionally, individuals taking aspirin for five years or more were 15 percent less likely to die from cancer. Previous research had only shown such benefits for patients taking aspirin for longer periods of time.

Nowhere was the evidence stronger than it was for colon cancer. Researchers found that patients who were diagnosed with localized colon cancer while taking daily aspirin halved the chance that their disease would spread.

Aspirin is a relatively inexpensive and easy-to-take medication that millions of Americans already use. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends men between the ages of 45 and 79 take aspirin daily to prevent heart disease, and they also recommend that women aged 55 to 79 take a daily aspirin to ward off stroke. The notion that this same medication may be able to prevent cancer is significant.

Cancer experts contacted by ABC News said they are excited about what these findings might mean for future research and treatment.

"This is very encouraging information," says Dr. Roy Herbst, Chief of Medical Oncology for the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn. "It suggests that aspirin could play a very important role in cancer prevention."

"I am intrigued by the consistency of the findings and this is something that can be implemented quickly that people are not opposed to," said Dr. Kristen Moysich, professor of oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. "It is an easy thing to do."

But precisely how patients might benefit from aspirin has yet to be fully understood, doctors say.

"No one knows exactly what the mechanism is of how aspirin helps prevent cancer," said Asad Umar, chief of the Gastrointestinal and Other Cancers Research Group of the National Cancer Institute.

Umar said aspirin's anti-inflammatory action might have something to do with the benefits that researchers have seen. Others, like Jay Whelan, suggest aspirin may interfere with the processes in the body that cause tumors to grow.

"Aspirin also probably works in ways that we don't quite understand," said Whelan, who heads the Department of Cellular and Molecular Nutrition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "We don't know the mechanism, and it is very difficult to make a blanket public health statement without knowing the mechanism."

"While this backs everything up, I think people should consult their physicians."

The research may not be the last word on aspirin and cancer. Previous studies -- including the large Women's Health Study and the Physicians' Health Study -- have suggested no link between aspirin consumption and reductions in cancer occurrence or cancer-related death. The researchers behind the current study wrote that they excluded these major pieces of research because patients in these studies did not take aspirin on a daily basis.

Even then, the conclusions of the new research do not support a specific dose of aspirin -- so even if there is an effect, those who hope to benefit from it may find themselves at a loss over how much to take.

And although aspirin is a commonly used medicine available over the counter, it is not necessarily safe. People taking aspirin have an increased risk of bleeding, including bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. This can be very dangerous, and the risk of it happening increases with higher doses.

Most agreed that before medical experts can make any concrete recommendations, further study is needed.

"Because these results are new, it will take time for the broader scientific community to evaluate the data in the context of existing knowledge and to consider whether the clinical guidelines should be changed," said Eric Jacobs, strategic director of Pharmaco-Epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, Inc.

"It is important for patients to follow colon cancer guidelines already in place and get their recommended colon cancer screening tests."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Group Says Hot Dogs Cause 'Butt Cancer'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The war against meat continues to grow, most recently with a giant billboard in Chicago that reads, "Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer."

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, animal rights and plant-based diets, installed the ad. What they really mean is processed meats have been linked to colorectal cancer, but Susan Levin, nutrition education director at PCRM, said a recent study found that 39 percent of Americans don't even know what the colon (the last part of the digestive tract) is. 

The blunt statement makes it easier for laypeople to understand medical jargon that is intended for health professionals, not the average U.S. citizen.

"Processed meats are very closely linked to colorectal cancer," Levin said.  "To us, that's unacceptable and it's not a safe food. We see it as our job to get that information out in a way that people can understand and it grabs attention."

But the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, a branch of the American Meat Institute, disagrees.

"The sign is pretty misleading," said Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute.  "We find this billboard pretty outrageous and alarmist.  Hot dogs are part of a balanced diet. "

When it comes to addressing obesity in this country, health officials and consumers need to be aware of the amount of food eaten.  The current daily meat recommendation is 5 to 7 ounces per day, Riley said.

But a new Harvard study out Monday revealed that eating a single serving of red meat per day might increased the risk of early death by 13 percent.  And, according to the research, a daily serving of processed meat, including one hot dog or two strips of bacon, carried an even greater risk at 20 percent increased risk of early death.

The study comes on the heels of the headline-grabbing "pink slime" frenzy, in which thousands of critics were infuriated by the addition of the low-cost, ammonia-treated beef filler that comes from leftover cuts of meat.  It's unclear how much ground beef in the United States contains the ingredient, but some estimate it is as high as 70 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'South Park’s' Mr. Hankey as Mascot for Rectal Cancer?

"South Park" writers/creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker arrive at "South Park's" 15th Anniversary Party on Sept. 20, 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The earthy brown visage of South Park’s Mr. Hankey, the “Christmas Poo,” could become the new face of rectal cancer if comedian and cancer patient Michelle Dobrawsky has anything to do with it.

In an open letter that has been circulating the Internet, Dobrawsky petitions the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, to license their famous animated bowel movement as the official “spokesturd” of rectal cancer.

“Yep, I’ve got cancer.  Rectal cancer -- the funniest cancer of all, fortunately! And, frankly, a cancer with a big ol’ marketing problem,” she writes in her letter. “You see, rectal cancer doesn’t even have its own ribbon.”

She hopes to raise awareness for rectal cancer by using Mr. Hankey as its “official ambassador,” slapping his face onto “every ribbon, T-shirt, electric mixer, lipstick, football helmet, mouth guard, sneaker, toaster, stapler and every other endorsable, colorable product in the world!” she writes.

Each year about 40,000 people are diagnosed with rectal cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2011, 49,380 people died from colorectal cancer -- a category that includes both colon cancer and rectal cancer. While rectal cancer traditionally strikes older people, a study from 2010 suggested that it might be becoming more prevalent among those under 40.

When caught early, about 75 percent of rectal cancer patients survive at least five years after diagnosis, but survival rates drop to six percent when the cancer progresses to late stage, according to the ACS.

“Rectal cancer is its own, special (to me) disease, and deserves a higher-profile endorsement,” Dobrawsky writes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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