MARSHALL – In an attempt to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in Calhoun County, Oaklawn Hospital, its physicians, the Fountain Clinic and Calhoun Health Plan have been working together to provide free services with the potential of saving lives.
In observance that March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, free screenings and colonoscopies for low-income uninsured and under-insured Calhoun County residents have been coordinated with several existing patients as part of a regional effort to fight the affliction.
For the eighth year, Oaklawn endoscopy nurses and certified registered nurse anesthetists joined with Drs. Freda Arlow, Catherine Burtrum, Andrew Gordon, Mahesh Karamchandani, James Van Popering and Caron Warnsby to provide free colonoscopies based on referrals from the clinic.
“We deeply appreciate Oaklawn’s assistance with this program,” said Mary Jo Byrne, the clinic’s executive director. “These are tests that are very expensive and beyond our means to pay for.”
She said the clinic has identified a number of patients who have shown symptoms that could lead to colon cancer, and will be working with them during the screening period.
Oaklawn staff encourages people to be proactive with their health care which includes having screenings done to identify problems as early as possible.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death, with a higher incidence in African American men and women. However, significant declines in colorectal cancer incidence and death rates in the past decade have been attributed to increased colonoscopy use.
Regular screenings are recommended between the ages of 50 and 75. People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age and may need to be tested more frequently.
Conditions that make a person’s risk higher than average include a personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps; a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease); a strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps; and a known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC).
Recommendations for colorectal cancer prevention and early detection may be obtained at tinyurl.com/cffh6cg, and screening guidelines are available from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force at tinyurl.com/nkcsm7y.