“Colorectal cancer is highly preventable because it is very slow growing,” says Dr. Pamela Coffey, Family Medicine Doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Parkside Medical Offices. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States; and is most commonly found in its early stages around age 50, with exceptions for those who have a family history of the condition. Some measures for prevention include diet and exercise, limiting alcohol to two drinks per day, quitting smoking, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
“I grew up in a rural area in Kentucky where building relationships is extremely important. You are limited to the people around you, so if someone needs something there has to be someone to step up and help – I wanted to be that person for people, which is why I got into family medicine,” says Coffey. “I love building these relationships and working with patients to develop and work towards their health goals, which ultimately lessen their risks for certain kinds of cancers and diseases.” She loves the range that family medicine affords, and especially enjoys dermatology, pediatrics, geriatrics, sports medicine and minor procedures. This broad scope allows her to relate to a wide range of patients.
Coffey completed her residency in Ohio and thereafter was in urgent care for three years. ”I believe in an individualized approach to health care,” she says. “Rather than a cookie cutter approach, it’s important to listen to the patient and see what will work for them.” She also points out the importance of orienting patients towards their goals, but ultimately letting them decide what’s important for themselves. “This way the motivation for losing weight or developing healthy habits comes more naturally; and I can be a cheerleader on the side to help them along the way.”
Coffey has had some unique experiences in her career, including completing two medical mission trips abroad. “In the first I had the opportunity to go to Brazil and work on an Amazon River boat where local families would row up to the boat and hop on for treatment,” she says. “I treated one lady for a home visit who had a 16 year old daughter with a malformation. The mother weighed less than 100 pounds and she’d typically have to carry her 140 pound daughter to get treated. They were so grateful for our visit that they gave us vegetables to take home. Experiences like that really restore my faith in medicine and in people.” Her second mission trip was in the mountains of Honduras, where she was able to treat children at different schools in the area. “These experiences were truly the highlight of my medical career thus far, and gave me a deeper appreciation for our medical system in the United States after working in areas where there were little to no resources. We are very blessed in this country.”
She moved to Colorado Springs specifically to work for Kaiser Permanente. “I knew a lot about the organization as far as the insurance aspect, the patient care, their focus on preventative care, and the community service they do,” Coffey says. “I was already impressed with Kaiser Permanente; and just fell in love with the area and the people when I came for my interview.” She explains that she is excited to come into the offices every single day, because of both the patient interaction and the interaction with other staff members. “They have really created a strong team here. The team-driven approach allows us to provide the best care possible because we all work together and look out for each and every patient.” She explains that having a strong support system in the community from doctors, family and friends is a key element to sustained health.
Because colorectal cancer is so slow-growing, screening can truly be a life-saver. Coffey advises that patients be checked at age 50. Those with a first degree relative with a history of colon cancer should be screened 10 years prior to the age their family member was diagnosed. Three procedures are available for screening – colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and stool tests. “A lot of times people are terrified to come in for a colonoscopy, but we have other non-invasive procedures as well that are just as effective at detecting colon cancer,” says Coffey. Some warning signs of colorectal cancer include bloody or dark stool, major changes in bowel habits and pain in the belly. While the exact causes are unknown, it is essential for all to be screened in order to reduce risk.
Outside of Kaiser Permanente, Coffey loves being creative, cross stitching, needlepoint, crocheting, going to the theater and watching movies. She also loves to explore through hiking and travel; and loves to explore through hiking and traveling abroad. Further, she thrives on doing volunteer work and looking forward to getting involved in the Colorado Springs community
She is currently accepting new patients.
- Pamela Coffey, M.D., is a family medicine doctor practicing at the Kaiser Permanente Parkside Medical Offices centrally located at 215 Parkside Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80910. To learn more about how they can help your family thrive, visit kp.org or call 1-888-681-7878.