Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colon Cancer Awareness month and the activities used to educate the community about colon cancer symptoms, risks and treatments were canceled. However, the topic deserves to be revisited now that Baptist Health Madisonville is providing elective services and screenings once again.
Kentucky has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in the nation, and also has the second-highest occurrence in under age 50 incidence which is rapidly increasing for unknown reasons. Up to 70% of early age onset colorectal cancers present with no known risk factors.
“If you missed your appointment for your colonoscopy due to COVID-19, or are age 45 or older and have never received a colorectal screening, you need to talk with your primary care provider,” stated John DaCosta, MD. “Colon cancer is highly treatable and the survival rate is very high when we can catch polyps early. By the time you have symptoms, this cancer is much more advanced.”
Signs and symptoms of this cancer can include rectal bleeding, change in bowel habit, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, anemia, unexplained weight loss, low back pain or cramping, feeling bloated, low mean red cell volume, raised platelets, abnormal liver function, low hemoglobin and raised inflammatory markers.
Family history also plays a factor. A first-degree relative with colorectal cancer increases your risk by 2-3 times. About 15% of young adult colorectal cancers are associated with known hereditary syndromes.
Over the past decade, multiple laws were enacted to lower barriers for and accelerate screening rates in Kentucky.
In 2018, Kentucky decided to follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for colorectal screening, meaning insurance coverage for normal risk screening now begins at age 45, rather than age 50. There are approximately 200,000 Kentuckians within this age range and affords a great opportunity to battle early age onset colorectal cancer.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health administers a screening program for colon cancer that covers screening and surveillance colonoscopies for those uninsured or underinsured that meet financial guidelines.
In 2016, changes in insurance coverage and coding for colonoscopies further reduced financial barriers and in 2019, Kentucky passed a law to cover multi-gene panel testing coverage with no cost-sharing for those meeting national comprehensive cancer network guidelines for hereditary cancer risk testing.
Colorectal cancer screening rates have more than doubled since 2002. As a result of increased screening, 640 Kentuckians either won’t develop colorectal cancer or won’t die from it in 2020 compared to 15 years ago.
To schedule a screening colonoscopy, call Baptist Health Medical Group Gastroenterology at 270.326.5000 or General Surgery at 270.326.4780. For additional information on the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, visit kickingbutt.org.