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Colorectal Surgeons Urge Awareness and Early Screening to Avoid Cancer

New Britain [July 27 2006] - They have more than their names in common. Dr. Christine Bartus, Dr. Christina Czyrko, and Dr. Maria Christina Mirth are all board certified colorectal surgeons affiliated with New Britain General Hospital.

The coincidence of sharing the same first name in a profession with so few females is remarkable. Of the 1,281 board certified colorectal surgeons in the United States and Canada, 102 women are women, fewer than 10 percent of the total. There are only four female surgeons in the specialty in Hartford County.

“It’s a very small club,” Dr. Czyrko concedes. She and Dr. Mirth are in practice together with offices in both New Britain and Southington. Dr. Bartus maintains a practice in New Britain as part of Connecticut Surgical Group. (Although many of the physicians in this group are based in Hartford, Dr. Bartus emphasizes that she is in New Britain full time.)

All three surgeons agree that it makes a big difference to their female patients that they, too, are women. “Every day I hear, ‘I’m so glad you’re a woman,” says Dr. Mirth, which is echoed by the other two.

“We have a lot to offer our patients in Central Connecticut, and particularly women,” says Czyrko. “Many of the disorders that we treat are related to childbirth.” The dynamics are different when women treat other women for medical problems that are uniquely female — e.g. those directly related to unique anatomy and child-bearing ability.

Whatever one’s gender, the most important consideration is a physician’s medical and surgical expertise. And diseases of the colon and rectal area are at least as prevalent in men as in women. Czyrko and Mirth estimate that about 43 percent of their patients are male.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Cancer Society estimates that 56,730 Americans died of colorectal cancer in 2005. Roughly 146,940 new cases were diagnosed in 2004, making it the third most common cancer in men and women.

While those are daunting statistics, prevention and early detection can make a huge difference. There are several types of screening methods, including a basic test that can be done at home. It is recommended that all adults 50 and over have regular screenings, and younger if one is in a higher risk category. But, according to a CDC study in 2000, only 42.5 percent of U.S. adults age 50 and over had colorectal cancer screening.

“Unfortunately, embarrassment and social stigma can keep people from seeking help,” says Dr. Mirth. That is where education comes in. “When we see a new patient, we preface things by saying that this is an important part of the body and it’s important that we know details. A lot of what we do is education, not just treatment.”

The spectrum of disease treated by colon and rectal surgeons is broad, including, but not limited to, inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease; colorectal cancer; and other anorectal conditions including treating polyps of the colon and rectum, diverticulitis, fecal incontinence, and hemorrhoids.

Czyrko was the first female colorectal surgeon in Connecticut and Mirth was the first in South Carolina. The two met at a conference in Dallas in 2004 and Mirth joined Czyrko’s practice in 2005. Dr. Mirth is the newest addition to the NBGH staff and brings 14 years of experience in colon and rectal surgery, with particular expertise in fecal incontinence (lack of bowel control). Dr. Mirth completed her training in 1992, with a fellowship in colon and rectal surgery at St. Vincent Health Center in Pennsylvania. She earned her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and performed both her internship and residency at the SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse.

Dr. Bartus received her MD and residency training at the University of Connecticut Health Center. She went on to do her fellowship in colon and rectal surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where she received the Outstanding Clinical Fellow Award. One of her specialties is laparoscopic surgery, which is less invasive than traditional surgery and shortens recovery time.

Dr. Czyrko also trained at the Cleveland Clinic in 1992, following her medical studies and postgraduate training in New York and Philadelphia. She has been in practice for 14 years.

Dr. Mirth completed her training in 1992, with a fellowship in colon and rectal surgery at St. Vincent Health Center in Pennsylvania. She earned her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and performed both her internship and residency at the SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse.

All three physicians look forward to bringing a true center of excellence to Central Connecticut along with their individual expertise in colon and rectal surgery.

Office hours for Drs. Czyrko and Mirth are by appointment at 40 Hart St, Building B in New Britain, and at the Medical Arts Building at Bradley Memorial Hospital; phone 860-826-3880.

Office hours for Dr. Bartus are by appointment at Connecticut Surgical Group, PC, 40 Hart Street, Building C, in New Britain; phone 860-229-8889.


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