Dr. Mary De Vera wears blue at her UBC office to mark the beginning of Colorectal Cancer Month in March. Her research funding runs out at the end of the month and she needs more Canadian patients and survors to take the survey. (Twitter)

Colorectal cancer researcher needs more B.C. survivors

UBC’s Mary De Vera seeks answers after her own recovery

Dr. Mary De Vera has a research grant to study one of the most common types of cancer in Canada, and personal experience of its effects to motivate her search for answers. Now all she needs is the experience of a few more colorectal cancer survivors, via an online survey.

An assistant professor of pharmaceutical science at the University of B.C., De Vera is part of a team working to fill the information gap on colorectal cancer, which hasn’t had the attention of more familiar types of the disease.

After undergoing treatment herself after being diagnosed in 2016 at the age of 36, and finding a shortage of information on treatment, De Vera launched the survey of patients, which has had more than 1,000 responses since late last year.

The survey is open to anyone who has ever been diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer and is above the age of 18. Grant funding runs out at the end of March.

“There is ample information to support patients who are diagnosed with breast, prostate, lung and other forms of cancer, but there is very little readily available information for those who have colorectal cancer,” De Vera said. “We have had a good response internationally to the survey, however with less than 200 Canadian respondents, we need more Canadians to help identify what type of information patients need and the best way to get that information.”

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The Canadian Cancer Society says colorectal cancer is the second most common type in Canada. The nearly 27,000 people diagnosed in 2017 represented 13 per cent of all new cancer cases. The B.C. Provincial Health Services Authority estimate for 2018 is that 3,720 B.C. residents would be diagnosed, and 1,290 would die from colorectal cancer.

De Vera was diagnosed shortly after the birth of her second daughter, with a promising career in medical research ahead of her. She spent the next year undergoing five weeks of chemoradiation, two major surgeries and four months of chemotherapy.


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