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      RGA Team Presents on Colon Cancer Screening, COVID at Prestigious DDW 2021

      Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) will be well-represented at this weekend's Digestive Disease Week 2021, the world's premier meeting for physicians, researchers, and industry leaders in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy, and gastrointestinal (GI) surgery.

      The event takes place virtually from May 21-23. On Saturday, May 22, RGA's Dr. Matt Stier and Saumya Patel, a third-year medical student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford, will share their findings from a study titled "Colonoscopy Results After a Positive Stool DNA Test: Experience from a Community Screening Population."

      On Sunday evening, Dr. Joe Vicari will lead a session called, "Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic: What's in Store for the Future?"

      RGA physicians have been longtime advocates for GI care at the national level and longtime teachers and mentors through their roles as clinical faculty at the UIC-Rockford medical school.

      Both DDW presentations are expected to be popular topics and discussions. For the stool DNA study portion, Patel will do an eight-minute oral presentation, and then Dr. Stier will lead a live Q&A session afterwards.

      The research studied 450 patients from the last three years who were referred to RGA for a follow-up colonoscopy after receiving a positive test result from a Cologuard® test (read our blog on the differences between colon cancer screening tests here).

      Highlights from the research included that only 2% of patients with a positive stool test had colon cancer, meaning 98% did not have colon cancer. About two-thirds of patients had a false-positive result, meaning they did not have any precancerous polyps or had small polyps the test shouldn't be detecting.

      That also means two-thirds of those patients with a false positive test required a colonoscopy to evaluate the cause of the positive test, which likely added more out-of-pocket costs and could have caused unnecessary worry and anxiety, Dr. Stier said. Additionally, about 15% of that patient base had a family history of colon cancer, a personal history of precancerous polyps, or symptoms such as overt rectal bleeding, which means the stool test was ordered inappropriately (a colonoscopy should have been the first choice).

      "The research supports the message that there are lots of choices for colon cancer screening, and not all tests are created equal," Dr. Stier said. "The most accurate and effective method for average-risk individuals is having a colonoscopy every 10 years. Make sure to talk to your doctor about what test is right for you."

      Working on the research was both exciting and beneficial for Patel, who hails from Addison and became interested in the GI field after his first year of medical school. Before coming to Rockford for medical school, he did two years of research at Vanderbilt University studying DNA replication and development.

      "The early exposure to the field has been really helpful for me, and Dr. Stier has been a great mentor," Patel said. "It's been beneficial to see the kind of work RGA does."

      Patel said he's interested in GI and Internal Medicine because of the great combination of science and interacting with patients, the "trifecta of procedures, patient interaction, and science and research."

      "What's great about RGA doing this research is it's another step toward better patient care," Patel said. "I have enjoyed seeing how much RGA cares about their patients, and how they care about training and teaching students to make them better equipped for residency and becoming the best docs in the future."