The Nurse's Role in Colon Cancer Screening

John Marshall, MD

Nurses can help coach and push patients and their physicians along to do the steps that are needed to get good screening, says John Marshall, MD.

John Marshall, MD, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, professor of medicine and oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University, and director of the Otto J. Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancer, explains the role of nurses in screening for colon cancer.

Nurses can help identify symptoms like gastrointestinal bleeding, abdominal upset, unexplained weight loss, or change in stool habits, and they should counsel patients around screening, he says. They should be also counsel the patient around the various ways that screening is done, for example, colonoscopy, stool testing, or gene testing.

"Nurses have a more human side to them than many physicians," Marshall said. "The whole process of screening for colon cancer is a little nasty. Either the bowel prep, collecting or handling stool is not very much fun. Nurses have a way of doing all of that stuff without even noticing. They can help coach us and push us along to do the steps that are needed to get good screening."