February 26, 2010
Jamie Romano’s death from colon cancer at the age of 31 was a tragedy and an anomaly. But such “anomalies” have become more frequent, according to Dr. Brian Kann, an assistant professor of colorectal surgery at Cooper Hospital, who treated Jamie during her three-and-a-half-year battle with Stage 4 cancer. Kann says he sees increasing numbers of people in their 20s and 30s developing the disease.
“The majority of cases I see are still people in their early 60s,” he adds. “But I’ve had at least a dozen patients in their late 20s with colon cancer. And a lot of times it’s diagnosed at an advanced stage in young people, because systems get attributed to other things … and by the time it gets looked into a little further, it’s pretty advanced.”
Jamie Romano was scanned for kidney stones shortly after the premature birth of her youngest son, Hayden. He still was in the hospital when his mother began treatment for her cancer, which had spread to her liver.
Colorectal cancer (of the colon or rectum) is the third most common cancer in the U.S. in men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. Overall, rates of colorectal cancer have declined in the U.S. for more than a decade, with the majority of cases in people 50 and up. But the June, 2009, issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention showed that based on data from 1992 to 2005, rates of colorectal cancer per 100,000 people ages 20 to 49 increased 1.5 percent per year in men and 1.6 percent per year in women.
Dr. Kann says the main risk factor for colorectal cancer is a family history. If, for instance, an immediate family member developed colon cancer at 40, you should begin getting screened 10 years earlier, at 30. Any symptoms such as blood in the stool or a change in bowel habits should be investigated further. It may mean the dreaded colonoscopy; it may also mean catching the cancer early, when it is highly treatable. Colonoscopy still is the gold standard of tests, Kann says.
Of Jamie Romano, the doctor adds, ”She was one of a growing number of patients we’re seeing without family history (of the disease). And she was one tough cookie.”
That “tough cookie” would want you to know colon cancer is no longer an old person’s disease.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The Colon Cancer Alliance recognizes March 5 as National Dress in Blue Day to bring attention to the disease. Find out more at www.ccalliance.org or www.coloncancerfoundation.org
The Jamie Romano Beef and Beer for Colon Cancer, begun by Jamie herself in 2007, is March 6 at Columbus Manor in Williamstown. For information, call (856) 498-2992 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image from Cooper University Hospital 2008 Annual Report PDF (Page 20)
Love and Concern inspire ill mom's cancer benefit
February 27, 2008
"I want to help find a cure someday, or at least something better than chemotherapy to treat colon cancer," said Jamie Romano, 29, the event organizer.
A 1997 graduate of Williamstown High School, Romano has been fighting colon cancer and stage four liver cancer -- the most severe form -- since February 2006.
Proceeds from her beef and beer benefit will support CCI's research of colon and gastrointestinal cancers.
Last year's event generated $5,000 for research. Romano hopes the March 8 beef and beer will double that figure. A few tickets remain available for the event, to be held in Gibbstown.
Romano said she is motivated to support cancer research out of love for her children and concern for their future. She is the mother of three children, sons Avery and Hayden, and stepdaughter Desiree. Her husband is Len Romano.
"I'm scared to death for them. I wouldn't want to see anyone else go through this," said Romano, who discovered her cancer two weeks after giving birth to Hayden, now 2.
During a CT scan for kidney stones, doctors detected a cancerous mass on Romano's colon and lesions on her liver. Twelve inches of her colon were removed.
"My liver is not in too great a shape. They told me that I would be on chemo forever, so I go to chemo every other week. Afterward, I'm sick for five days -- and I'm badly sick, like throwing up," she said.
Her physicians include oncologist Alex Hageboutros of the Cooper Cancer Institute and colorectal surgeon Brian Kann.
The fundraiser gives Romano a positive outlet.
Last week, Romano took a breather from chemotherapy to prepare for the big party. The event will include a DJ, 50/50 drawings, T-shirt sales and a Chinese auction.
"Last year, we danced, so it was a lot of fun," she said.
"I have a lot of people helping me -- my mom, my aunts and the girls in Dr. Kann's office."
She said she is grateful to businesses supporting the event: the Italian Kitchen, Bringhurst Brothers, Berlin Borough; Bellone's Nursery, Vineland; RMJ Mechanical of Atco; Superior Mortgage, Hammonton; Wawa, Frito-Lay and Tastykake.
People like Romano help to make ongoing cancer research at Cooper possible, said Beth Ann Rachkis, director of marketing and communications at CCI.
In addition, "Jamie's a great spokesperson for young people with cancer," she said.
CCI cares for thousands of New Jersey residents battling cancer each year.
"Thanks to the support of our community, we have been able to expand services and provide access to world-class medical care," Rachkis said.