Srijana Bajracharya, associate professor of health promotion and physical education, and Janet Wigglesworth, associate dean for graduate and clinical services, presented a paper Nov. 8 titled “Knowledge Regarding Colorectal Cancer (CRC)” at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Boston, Mass. The paper, based on surveys of Ithaca College employees aged 45 to 60, focused on CRC screenings and how to change fears and perceptions about the process. Contributing Writer Clara Eisinger spoke with Bajracharya about her findings.
Clara Eisinger: What prompted you to research colorectal cancer (CRC)?
Srijana Bajracharya: In one of my classes, I had invited the American Cancer Society Director to talk about cancer issues in Tompkins County. The local data showed that the incidence rate [of CRC] was almost comparable with state and national rate, but that the death rate was the higher. I wondered what was happening, what was different in Tompkins County compared to state data and national data.
CE: What is the background to your research?
SB: Despite the fact that colorectal cancer is the third-leading form of cancer incidence in the United States, the rate of screening is much lower. The death rate from CRC has not decreased compared to other forms of cancer, such as prostate and breast, which can be prevented through screening. I was curious to find out the local status. I wanted to get specific information about their clients based on what they see on a daily basis. As I was wondering which population I should focus on, it was much more practical and meaningful to me to look at my own peers. Knowing that they are well-educated and well-covered by the health insurance, the CRC screening should not be a big issue. But some people don’t even know about the importance of this disease even at 50, therefore, they don’t even think about this.
CE: Why is CRC so prevalent, and why are people hesitant to get screened for it?
SB: Our lifestyle, the way we eat and the way we stay active, has a lot to do with having or not having this kind of cancer. However, screening can save lives, but the rate of CRC screening is pretty low. It seems the fear is the biggest barrier. The preparation can be pretty challenging. For about a day or two before the screening you can’t eat anything solid. You must clean your system, otherwise you may have to go back again. It’s pretty intense. The colonoscopy is the best screening that is done right now. When they go in there and find polyps, they can take care of it right then. If there is no problem, then you do not have to do it for a long time. You’re not only screening, you’re also getting treatment at the same time.
CE: How will your work benefit the field of cancer research?
SB: The current findings will help us to design community-based education programs or other resources so that people can make an informed decision and have CRC screenings before it is too late. We may be able to go to other worksites, like banks and industries. We need to start education programs through multiple avenues, including workshops, fliers, Web sites, newsletters, classes, health fairs and testimonials.