Rachel Issaka, MD, MAS
During my medical residency, I provided care at two clinics in Chicago. One was in downtown, and the other was on the South Side. My patients in the downtown clinic, who were mostly white, would almost always accept my offer to complete colorectal cancer screening, while my patients on the South Side, who were mostly Black and Latino, were much more hesitant about completing screening. I wondered why there was such a difference in responses to a potentially lifesaving test. I would come to learn about the multiple barriers many racial and ethnic minorities and low-income individuals face in accessing colon cancer screenings: a lack of referral, transportation and care coordination, to name just a few. That experience inspired my current clinical research in colon cancer and has also influenced the way I practice medicine. My approach to care is based on meeting patients where they are — understanding what each person needs at that moment in time and what obstacles they face, and then finding the resources and tools to help them achieve their health goals. I want patients to walk away from our consultations feeling empowered to handle any gastrointestinal challenge.
I was a member of the care team for a patient who was experiencing symptoms consistent with colon cancer. I performed his colonoscopy and unfortunately found a tumor. Our pathologists quickly confirmed the diagnosis of cancer, and our radiologists were able to complete his scans a few days later, which showed the cancer had not spread outside of his colon. Within the same week, he was able to meet the surgeon, who ultimately removed the cancer. A week later, he was thrilled to be discharged from the hospital. Not every situation turns out this way, but the reason we were able to coordinate his care so rapidly was because of the multidisciplinary nature of SCCA. Sharing space with a variety of cancer care experts facilitates collaboration and ultimately improves our patients’ experiences and outcomes.
I am a board-certified gastroenterologist who specializes in the digestive issues associated with cancer or cancer treatment. These issues include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and more. I provide care for patients with all types of cancers in order to improve their quality of life during and after cancer treatment.
My clinical research spans the full colorectal cancer care continuum, from prevention to diagnosis to surveillance. At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, I lead a lab that studies how to improve colorectal cancer outcomes through interventions that increase screening participation and follow-up of abnormal stool-based screening tests. Our mission is to decrease the mortality of this disease, especially in racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved populations.
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SCCA's Rachel Issaka, MD, was featured in a recent U.S. News and World Report article about colon cancer screening.
SCCA's Rachel Issaka, MD, was quoted in a HealthCentral story about colonoscopies as an option for colon cancer screening.
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