Cayuga County Health Department: Cancer screenings make a huge difference

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2018 are 97,220 new cases of colon cancer and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer. According to the November 2016 New York State Cancer Registry, 38 Cayuga County men and women are diagnosed annually with colorectal cancer. This disease takes the lives of 18 Cayuga County residents annually. With routine screenings colorectal cancer death rates can be reduced as this is one cancer that can be preventable, treatable and beatable! Colorectal cancers are thought to develop slowly, over many years. They result from changes in pre-cancerous growths (also referred to as adenomatous polyps) in the lining of the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Polyps that are discovered early through routine testing can simply be removed — before they become malignant. The simplest test for colorectal cancer is a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), a painless procedure you can do at home. Two stool samples obtained over a few days are examined using a special paper that detects the presence of human blood in the stool. Blood can be a sign of cancer, polyps or other benign disorders. Other tests for colorectal cancer include examinations of part of or the entire colon via flexible sigmoidoscopy (a procedure in which a doctor views the lower third portion of the colon) or colonoscopy, and X-rays of the colon following barium enema. During these two procedures, if polyps are discovered they are removed during these procedures. Doctors recommend that men and women ages 50 and older at average risk take the FIT kit every year. Flexible sigmoidoscopy or double contrast barium enema testing should be done every five years. Colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years. If a problem is not detected, continue routine screenings as recommended by a doctor. Depending on the screening methods and findings, follow-up testing may be needed. Colonoscopy is also recommended as a follow-up procedure to positive findings on any of the other tests. People at high risk for colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about a different screening schedule. Those at increased risk include people who:

• Have had colorectal cancer or polyps;

• Have inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis);

• Have blood relatives who have had colorectal cancer or polyps;

• Have genetic factors (such as familial adenomatous polyposis, Gardner’s syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, or are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent);

• Are African American.

The Cayuga County Cancer Services Program can screen people who have inadequate or no health insurance for free. The CCCSP offers free FIT kits and follow-up testing (colonoscopies) to adults ages 50 and who also meet eligibility and income guidelines. The program also offers free breast and cervical cancer screening (breast and pelvic exams and mammograms) to women ages 40–64 that meet the same health insurance and income criteria. Enrollment is simple and is conducted over the phone. Interested individuals can call Cayuga County Health Department at (315) 253-1455.

Main Street Goes Blue

In recognition of National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, light poles along Genesee, South and North streets will be strung with blue lights raise awareness of the importance of this type of cancer and to remind people to be screened.

Auburn Community Hospital, Dr. Foresman and Dr. Sidebottom are teaming up with the Cayuga County Cancer Services Program from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, to provide screenings to uninsured and under-insured men for colon and prostate cancer. The program is open to all men who have no health insurance or who have high deductibles and or these services not covered by insurance. Men must be at least 45 years of age for prostate cancer screenings and 50 years of age for colon cancer screenings. Please call (315) 253-1455 if you are interested in enrolling in this screening event.

Kimberly Abate is the senior public health educator for the Cayuga County Health Department and the coordinator for the Cayuga County Cancer Services Program.

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