Apple-core lesions. Currant-jelly stool. Most patients aren't exactly comfortable sharing the issues that led them to a colon and rectal specialist.
"The bowel," Dr. Andrew Vorenberg says — "nobody wants to talk about it but everyone has problems with it."
But Vorenberg is leading a concerted push in Richmond to help cut through the taboo surrounding colon care. Colon cancer, after all, kills 50,000 Americans annually.
A colo-rectal surgeon, Vorenberg co-founded a series of events that both raise awareness of the risk of colon cancer and money to offer treatment and screening for the uninsured.
The initiatives come with, um, cheeky names: Hitting Cancer Below the Belt raises funds for the treatment of abdominal cancers, as does the Boxer Brief Battle 5-K.
"A little bit of humor goes a long way," he says. "Just calling it 'the colon cancer race' isn't going to be sexy enough.'"
Both fundraising initiatives support Bringing Up the Rear, an annual initiative that offered 22 free colonoscopies this year. Of those patients screened, Vorenberg says, cancerous polyps were found in nine.
Vorenberg, who also serves on the board of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, is a leader in robotic surgical techniques. In addition to performing surgery, he travels across the country teaching other doctors how to use new equipment, which allows smaller incisions and big decreases in blood loss.
The benefits are huge, he says — especially for a doctor like him who grew up hating the sight of blood. Like his patients, Vorenberg's had to expand his comfort zone. The important part is getting people to get checked.
"What I tell folks is, I can't help you if you don't come into my office," he says.