Members of Sentara Medical Group were recognized for their efforts to inform and educate the African American community in Prince William and Stafford counties about colon cancer.

Sentara surgeons are making a difference

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Members of Sentara Medical Group (SMG) in Northern Virginia are peeling back their masks, leaving the office and taking their message into the community.

On June 8th, Dr. Arthur Vayer, Dr. Steven Nakao and Dr. Jeffrey Sinclair were recognized for their efforts to inform and educate the African American community in Prince William and Stafford counties about colon cancer. The ceremony was hosted by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans have the highest number of colorectal cancer cases and mortality rates of all racial groups in the United States. It’s something Dr. Nakao and the general surgeons at SMG see all too often. That’s why they were glad to share their message and fight against this deadly disease.

“If we can do some screening, find some polyps before they become cancer, it really changes somebody’s life in a positive way,” explains Dr. Nakao.

Over the course of a year, the doctors visited 13 churches around the county promoting colon health, colon cancer awareness, diet, and how these things affected the African American community.

“It affects the African American community disproportionately, at a younger age, compared to other ethnicities in the state of Virginia, in our counties and across the United States,” says Dr. Nakao.

While there’s no conclusive evidence to the increase in numbers, prevention and early detection is key. Dr. Nakao says because of this program people who were putting off these screenings had theirs performed.

“Statistics showed 70% of attendees of the seminars we went to.. went and got their colonoscopy after we spoke to them. So, it was very impactful for the group.”

While colonoscopies are usually recommended starting at 50 years of age, Dr. Nakao says given the increased risk factors, African Americans should start screenings at 45.

“The problem is most of the time colon cancer doesn’t have any symptoms. You’re not going to have the weight loss, you’re not going to have the blood in the stools, you may have some vague symptoms that you may chalk up to something you ate, but we’re finding that it’s not the typical age brackets anymore,” he explains.

Dr. Nakao says be aware of what’s going on with your body and if you have questions, contact your doctor.

To make an appointment with Dr. Nakao or another Sentara Surgery Specialist, call 703-523-9750.