Health and Family Services Cabinet
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), along with the Kentucky Cancer Program at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, is helping to promote “Dress in Blue Day” by asking Kentuckians to wear blue Friday, March 2 to promote colon cancer screening.
The event kicks off Colon Cancer Awareness Month, an observance created to educate the public about the prevalence of colon cancer and to promote screening and prevention strategies. Governor Steve Beshear today joined health advocates and survivors of colon cancer at a rally on the steps of the state Capitol to raise awareness of the disease.
During the rally, Gov. Beshear signed a proclamation designating March 2012 Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In his current budget proposal, the Governor is seeking to fund colon cancer screening for 4,000 uninsured Kentuckians.
“About 2,600 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in Kentucky each year resulting in nearly 900 deaths,” said Steve Davis, M.D., acting DPH commissioner. “With more awareness and screenings, we can significantly reduce this number and help more Kentuckians lead longer, healthier lives.”
According to DPH, colon cancer is 85 to 95 percent curable when found early, underscoring the need for preventive health exams.. These screenings will find abnormalities or early signs of cancer, such as polyps. When detected early, polyps in the colon, which often develop into cancer, can easily be removed during an outpatient procedure.
Both men and women are at risk of developing colorectal cancer and should be screened. However, DPH data shows that only 63 percent of Kentuckians who should have screening tests do so. Kentucky also has a higher than average population with increased risk of colon cancer due to higher rates of obesity, diets high in fat and a lack of regular exercise.
“Screening and early detection can save lives,” said Dr. Davis. “If you are 50 or older or have a history of colon cancer in your family, get screened. It’s the best way to ensure your future health and well-being, avoid more serious complications and reduce the cost of health care.”
According to DPH, screening is particularly important in the prevention of colon cancer because the disease may have no symptoms. When symptoms do develop at a later stage of the cancer, they may include blood in the stool, cramping in the abdomen, changes in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss.
Individual risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, according to DPH.
“Talk to your health care provider about when you should begin screening and how often you should be tested,” said Dr. Davis.
Several different screening tests can be used to find polyps or colon cancer. The tests can be used alone or in combination with each other. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening for men and women aged 50-75 using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT/FIT), sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor about which test or tests are right for you. Most private insurance plans, Medicaid and Medicare help cover the cost.
Madeline Abramson, wife of Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, is the Dress in Blue Day Honorary Chair for Kentucky. Mrs. Abramson has traveled the state to promote colon cancer screening. She is encouraging Kentuckians to dress in blue Friday and to organize a dress in blue day event at their job, church, club or other locations. For more information about colon cancer and National Dress in Blue Day, visit the website of the Kentucky Colon Cancer Prevention Project or the Kentucky Department for Public Health.