A Chickasaw physician is raising awareness and searching for a cure to colorectal cancer affecting Native Americans. It is the second deadliest cancer afflicting Native citizens, according to the Indian Health Service.
With an eye toward prevention coupled with symptom recognition, Dr. David Perdue said he believes his studies may be the catalyst for reversing these dire statistics.
Perdue, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, recently shared his findings with a group of health care professionals at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Okla.
“It is gratifying to see a Chickasaw physician involved in work which will enable us to continue enhancing the quality of healthcare we offer,” said Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. “Bringing this type of information and training to providers nationwide is vital to improving healthcare for Native Americans across the country.”
Perdue’s presentation, Grand Rounds No. 5767 Colorectal Cancer Disparities Among American Indians: Data from the Trenches, provides detailed information on the importance of recognizing colorectal cancer signs, symptoms, treatments and preventive measures for American Indians.
Perdue’s Ada presentation focused on understanding the gastrointestinal cancer differences occurring within the American Indian and Alaskan Native populations. Native Americans suffer from certain types of cancers, among them lung and colorectal cancers, more frequently than any other group, statistics show.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
“Dr. Perdue’s presentation on his work with cancer in American Indians brings into sharp focus the realities of the cancer health disparities that exist for Native people,” said Bobby Saunkeah, program manager of epidemiology, research and public health for the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health. “It is very rewarding to see a Chickasaw physician contributing such important work to the care of Indian people nationally.”
In many instances of colorectal cancer, patients do not know the signs and symptoms. Dr. Perdue provided information to be passed along from doctor to patient.
“There is an urgent need to address these disparities, especially in the areas of routine screening for cancers, prevention and early treatment,” Saunkeah said.
Perdue said once presented with this type of information, hospital staff can better educate patients on the signs, symptoms and treatments of colorectal cancer. When patients understand the risks and know the symptoms, they are more inclined to seek proper life-saving preventive treatments.
Dr. Perdue, who holds a Master’s of Science in Public Health, also discussed how to determine what best practices might need to be implemented at clinics within the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center to more effectively diagnose and treat the illness. New strategies aimed at improving the overall understanding of colorectal cancer screening were also discussed.
Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they will likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Perdue said it is time to see a physician when one first becomes symptomatic. Consult a physician about when to begin screening for colon cancer. Guidelines generally recommend colon cancer screenings begin at age 50. Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier screening if you have other risk factors such as a family history of the disease, he said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, warning signs may first arise from a change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of the stool. Others are:
(1) Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
(2) Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
(3) A feeling the bowel does not empty completely
(4) Weakness or fatigue
(5) Unexplained weight loss
EMBRACING HIS HERITAGE
Perdue grew up in Spokane, Wash., where he developed an interest in medicine. He was not raised in a traditional Native American setting, but was informed about his American Indian roots and returned to the Ada area every summer during his youth to visit his paternal grandparents. He learned about Chickasaw heritage and culture during these trips.
His late great-grandmother, Nora Stanton, was an original enrollee and a pianist at her church for many years. His grandmother, Lottie Perdue, attended boarding school.
His father, William D. Perdue, Ph.D., also made sure his son was acquainted with his Chickasaw heritage.
Perdue earned an undergraduate degree from Washington State University. He later earned his M.B.A. in Public Health from the University of Colorado, Denver, and his M.D. from the University of Washington.
Perdue focuses on clinical practices with Minnesota Gastroenterology in Minneapolis, where he is the select provider for American Indian and Alaska Native patients.
His clinical practice places emphasis on gastrointestinal cancer prevention, general gastroenterology and familial colorectal cancer syndromes. His specialties include helping others to understand the differences among colorectal cancer incidences among the populations of both minorities.
He is the medical director of the American Indian Cancer Foundation and co-chair of the Minnesota Intertribal Colorectal Cancer Council. He is an active member of the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic’s Spirit of Eagles Cancer Research Network and the Minnesota Colon Cancer Task Force.
To learn more about colorectal cancer, visit the American Indian Cancer Foundation online at www.americanindiancancer.org, or call the CNMC at (580) 436-3980.