BRIDGE Clinic awarded national grant to provide colon cancer screenings and care

The USF Health BRIDGE Clinic has won a grant from the national Colon Cancer Alliance to provide colon cancer services to BRIDGE patients.

The BRIDGE Clinic, a student-run free clinic that serves medically underserved residents in the community near USF, offers an array of medical services but has not been able to provide the services associated with colon cancer, including the screening that is so critical to finding and removing cancers early, which equates to a cure, or the treatment and surgical options when cancer is found.

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From left, Dr. Jorge Marcet; fourth-year medical student Juliana Gutierrez, BRIDGE Chief Operations Director; Dr. Frederick Slone, Medical Director for the Center for Advanced Clinical Learning; fourth-year Colin Sullivan, BRIDGE Chief Communications Director; and Dr. Eduardo Gonzalez, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, BRIDGE Faculty Medical Advisor.

The grant includes a recurring annual donation that is based a percentage of the funds made from the annual Undy 5000, the family-friendly 5K run/walk created by the Colon Cancer Alliance in which participants are encouraged to run in their boxers to bring attention to the area affected by colon cancer. This past February more than 400 people participated in the local Undy 5000, including patients and their families and friends, medical students, doctors, and nurses.

This year’s inaugural total for BRIDGE from last year’s race is nearly $6,700.

USF Health’s Jorge Marcet, MD, professor of surgery and director of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, is the local representative for the Colon Cancer Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that promotes community awareness for colorectal cancer.

“By every measure last year’s race was a success with a good turnout and people enjoyed themselves, great weather, and we raised much-needed money for the CCA,” said Dr. Marcet, who presented the check for the inaugural funds Oct. 21 to USF Health and BRIDGE leaders.

The funds will help meet the much-needed colon cancer care of patients visiting BRIDGE, said Frederick Slone, MD, a faculty medical advisor to BRIDGE, as well as assistant professor of medicine in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and medical director for the USF Health Center for Advanced Clinical Learning.

“We had no means for colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer and no funds for treatment if any cancer was found,” Dr. Slone said. “And screening is so important. If you wait for symptoms you’re too late. Screening is the way to find it early and cure it. Now with these funds we can actually do something and screen and treat a lot more people.”

Colorectal cancer affects 1 in 20 people and is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the US. It is one of the most deadly cancers, but one of the most preventable by screening. The most common and most effective screening involves a colonoscopy. If a growth (polyp) is found in the colon it is removed, thus preventing its development into a cancerous growth. Although colorectal cancer is more common as a person ages, it is being increasingly diagnosed in 30 and 40 year olds, especially rectal cancer. Signs of colorectal cancer include rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, and abdominal pain. People often ignore rectal bleeding, attributing the blood to more common ailments such as hemorrhoids. Rectal bleeding is always abnormal and should be investigated by an internal exam by a physician.

Next year’s Undy 5000 event will be on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, at Al Lopez Park in Tampa.

Visit their website for more information or ways to contribute.