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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Tammy Moreau and Kathy Gunn

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Screenings can detect colorectal cancer early, when treatable

The Rapides Foundation’s Healthcare Access Initiative seeks to ensure that Central Louisiana residents are able to obtain potentially life-saving healthcare services that are so important to maintaining their health. Among its programs is the Cancer Screening Project, which recognizes the vital importance of early screening for certain types of cancer.

Early screenings can be cost effective and promote longer, healthier lives. Routine cancer screenings can detect certain cancers early, when they are treatable. The Foundation unveiled its Cancer Screening Project in response to its 2005 Community Health Assessment that found too many Central Louisiana residents were not getting screened for breast, cervical and colon cancers, which contributes to higher cancer death rates.

To improve cancer-screening rates in the region, the project funds a mobile cancer screening van that travels throughout Central Louisiana, providing cancer screenings to eligible residents. The mobile unit is made possible through a partnership with LSU Health Shreveport’s Feist-Weiller Cancer Center.

Staff at The Rapides Foundation recognized Colon Cancer Awareness Month by wearing blue on the "Dress In Blue" national awareness day.
In observance of Colon Cancer Awareness Month in March, the Foundation is urging Central Louisiana residents to talk to their doctors about colon cancer screenings. See the colon cancer screening guidelines and more information on the Foundation website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal (colon) cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer – thus preventing the cancer from developing. In addition, screenings can find colorectal cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective and curable.

The Cancer Screening Project, which is administered by the Foundation’s Cenla Medication Access Program (CMAP), provides eligible residents with free take-home colon cancer screenings called the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). A FIT test uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool. The FIT test is an easy-to-use, take-home stool sample test that can be done in the privacy of home. Patients use a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool and then return the test kit in the mail.

Kayla Edwards, CMAP’s Cancer Screening Specialist, said CMAP offers free InSure FIT kits to Central Louisiana residents between the ages of 50 and 64 who meet income requirements, who do not have health insurance and who haven’t had a colonoscopy within 10 years. Call CMAP at 767-3027 or 1-855-767-3027 (toll free) to check eligibility.

Edwards said many CMAP clients are more comfortable with the annual FIT test because of the convenience. The patient mails the stool sample directly to a lab (postage is already paid). If the results are positive, Edwards helps the patient schedule their follow-up test – a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which the doctor uses a thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.

Kayla Edwards (right), CMAP Cancer Screening Specialist, and Amie Starks, Educational Resource Nurse at Rapides Regional Medical Center, spread the word about the importance of early colon cancer screening through an information booth during Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

“If the FIT test is positive, I automatically fax their results to LSU Family Medicine Alexandria, which is our partner in this project,” Edwards said. They schedule the colonoscopy for the patient. The colonoscopy and subsequent services if cancer is detected are free as well,” she said. 

CMAP distributes approximately 225 FIT kits each year. In 2014, seven tests came back positive and in 2015, 11 came back positive. All of the positive results upon further testing at LSU Family Medicine Alexandria came back as non-cancerous, Edwards said.

More information about colorectal cancer can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The Colon Cancer Alliance, the CDC and the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada offer recommendations to lower your colon cancer risk with simple lifestyle changes. For example, studies show diets high in vegetables, fruits and other plant foods reduce risk for many diseases, including colon cancer. According to the CDC, some studies suggest that people may reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco.

For more information about the Cancer Screening Project or to obtain a free FIT kit, call Edwards at 318-443-7494 or visit the CMAP website.

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