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Campaign encourages screening during Colon Cancer Awareness Month
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TOPEKA – More than 10 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer cases in Kansas are colon cancer. and the Kansas Association of Gastroenterologists has launched a statewide public awareness campaign for colon cancer prevention and screening and is working to improve that statistic by urging anyone 50 and older to get screened during National Cancer Awareness Month in March.

"Colon cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer in Kansas, yet more than 80 percent of cases could be prevented with timely screenings," said Dr. Shekhar Challa, member of Kansas and KAGI. "Through this campaign, we are trying to break down the barriers and convey a straightforward, crucial message – a colonoscopy can save your life."

When colon cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent according to the American Cancer Society. A colonoscopy is the most effective method of screening for colon cancer because it allows both diagnosis and treatment at the same time. Patients are encouraged to get a screening if they are over 50 years old (45 for African Americans) or have a family history of colon cancer or polyps. and the Kansas Association of Gastroenterologists is a community of physicians across the state working to increase screenings through patient education, primary care physician outreach and special events. One of the campaign’s objectives is to help the public overcome the barriers associated with colon cancer screenings – perceived risk, challenging preparation, fear of discomfort, modesty and embarrassment, and expense.

"Colonoscopies are done under sedation and usually painless; therefore, the prep is generally more uncomfortable than the procedure," said Dr. Challa. "However, if the patient has been educated about what to expect and given a few helpful tips, 24 hours of discomfort becomes insignificant given the alternative."

Current health care reform is also recognizing the importance of preventive care. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, as of Jan. 1, screening colonoscopies for patients will be fully covered by Medicare, and private insurers that make changes in their plans will also be required to offer full coverage for screening colonoscopies. Patients may still be responsible for other services associated with the procedure, such as anesthesia.

The non-profit Kansas Association of Gastroenterologists’ goal is to educate the public about the life-saving benefits of having a screening colonoscopy at age 50 and eliminate the 1,440 cases of colorectal cancer cases that are diagnosed each year in Kansas.