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Barbara Mackovic, Senior Manager
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Screening Options Help Detect Polyps Early and Prevent Colon Cancer
Louisville, Ky. (March 3, 2015)— Colon cancer can be among the most treatable forms of cancer when found and treated in its early stages. It’s also one of the few cancers to have an effective prevention strategy—removing precancerous polyps before they develop into cancer. However, colon cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and will kill nearly 50,000 Americans this year.
Kentucky has one of the highest rates of colon cancer incidence and deaths in the U.S. In 2013, Kentucky ranked fourth in the nation for colon cancer deaths. The death rate for colon cancer in Jefferson County is roughly 20 in 100,000, which is higher than national rates.
These deaths are largely preventable through a number of non-invasive screenings covered by insurance. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and KentuckyOne Health is working to increase colon cancer screenings throughout the Commonwealth.
The American Cancer Society recommends regular screening for colon cancer beginning at age 50. Earlier and more frequent screening may be recommended for individuals at high risk due to family history of colon cancer or polyps or other risk factors. African-Americans should begin screenings at age 45.
Colon cancer usually starts with polyps, small growths on the lining of the colon. Polyps can be removed to prevent cancer from developing, making colon cancer one of only two preventable types of cancer.
Recommended screening tests for colon cancer include colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test and stool DNA testing.
A colonoscopy allows a physician to look at the entirety of the colon using a flexible scope with a camera attached. The exam usually takes 30 to 60 minutes and the patient is sedated. If no abnormalities are found and the individual is not at high risk for cancer, it can be repeated about every 10 years.
Fecal occult blood test and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) are often done annually and are used to identify hidden blood in the stool, a sign of colon abnormalities. One benefit of these tests is that stool samples can often be collected at home and no preparation or sedation is needed.
Similarly, stool DNA testing samples can be collected in the comfort of the patient’s own home. Cologuard, for example, received FDA approval last year and is ordered by a gastroenterologist and shipped directly to the patient. The patient follows the instructions for stool sample collection and ships the test back to the lab to be analyzed.
“People are often intimidated by the prospect of colon cancer screening,” said Whitney Jones, MD, Gastroenterologist with Midwest Gastroenterology Associates, chairman, Kentucky Cancer Foundation and founder, Colon Cancer Prevention Project. “But the truth is, it’s easy, painless and can save your life. We have more options than ever before for screening. More important than the type of screening, is that individuals be screened.”
The Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program provides free screenings for at-risk, low income, uninsured Kentuckians in 10 regions across the state. KentuckyOne Health committed financial support to this initiative, which is a first of its kind partnership in the nation. Most screening options are also covered by Medicare and insurance.
Early stages of colon cancer show no signs or symptoms, so regular screening is critical for prevention and early detection. Currently only one third of colon cancers are caught at an early, treatable stage. When caught and treated early, treatment success can be improved up to 90 percent.
“When caught early, colon cancer is very treatable and long-term outcomes are positive,” said Dr. Jones. “Talk to your physician about the colon cancer screening option that is right for you.”
For more information about colon cancer screening, or to schedule a colonoscopy screening, call 855.42.KYONE or 855.345.9663.
About KentuckyOne Health
KentuckyOne Health, the largest and most comprehensive health system in the Commonwealth, has more than 200 locations including, hospitals, physician groups, clinics, primary care centers, specialty institutes and home health agencies in Kentucky and southern Indiana. KentuckyOne Health is dedicated to bringing wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved. The system is made up of the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System, along with the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. KentuckyOne Health is proud of and strengthened by its Catholic, Jewish and academic heritages.
Colon Health Facts
- Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and is expected to cause about 49,700 deaths in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.
- Kentucky is among states with the highest rates of colon cancer incidence and deaths in the nation. In 2013, Kentucky ranked fourth in the nation for colon cancer deaths.
- Early stages of colon cancer can have no signs or symptoms.
- Even if colon cancer has already developed, finding and treating it before symptoms are present can improve treatment success by up to 90 percent.
- Only one third of colon cancers are currently being diagnosed at an early, treatable stage.
- The American Cancer Society recommends screenings beginning at age 50, or 10 years before the youngest case in the immediate family, when a family history of colon cancer is present. African-Americans should begin screening at age 45.
- Detection of colon cancer or pre-cancerous polyps is achieved through screening techniques such as:
- Stool DNA Testing
- Fecal Occult Blood Testing
- Fecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT)
- Some colon cancer screening tests are noninvasive and can be done at home.
- The Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program provides screenings for low income, uninsured Kentuckians in 10 regions across the state.