FRANKFORT — Ten local health departments across the state will receive grants to expand colon cancer screening services, Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday.
The state Department for Public Health worked with the Kentucky Cancer Foundation and the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Advisory committee to develop the grant program, using $500,000 in state funds earmarked by the Kentucky General Assembly.
The Kentucky Cancer Foundation, which helps fund selected portions of the state’s overall Kentucky Cancer Action Plan, will provide a like amount of matching funds for the colon cancer screening program each year.
The screening program is intended for low income, uninsured Kentuckians between the ages of 50 and 64.
About 2,600 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in Kentucky each year and nearly 900 people die from the disease, according to data from the Kentucky Cancer Registry at the University of Kentucky.
“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, and Kentucky’s incidence rate is higher than the national average,” said Beshear in a statement. “If everybody age 50 or older had regular screening tests, at least one-third of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. This initiative will help more Kentuckians access those crucial screening tests.”
“The private-public partnership in funding our state cancer action plan is the first of its kind nationally,” said Dr. Whitney Jones, chairman of the Kentucky Cancer Foundation. “We look forward to completing this specific match and expanding services statewide in the future. We appreciate the investments in community health and wellness and the forward thinking of Gov. Beshear and the legislature.”
“Colon cancer is a very serious health concern that impacts too many Kentuckians,” said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, state public health commissioner. “Like many diseases, early detection is integral to successful treatment of the disease. Colon cancer screening not only helps us detect colon cancer early, but it may also prevent cancer by removing polyps before cancer develops.”
Over the next two years, grants will be awarded to 10 local health departments, which have formed partnerships with community health care providers to offer services.
They are Barren River District, Calloway County Health Department, Christian County Health Department, Fayette County Health Department, Floyd County Health Department, Greenup County Health Department, Jessamine County Health Department, Lake Cumberland District Health Department, Louisville Metro Health Department and Pike County Health Department
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five-year survival rate for colon cancer is 90 percent when found and treated early, underscoring the need for preventive health exams.
Screenings detect any abnormalities or early signs of cancer, like polyps in the colon. When detected early, polyps can be easily removed during a colonoscopy before they develop into cancer.
Both men and women are at risk of developing colorectal cancer and should be screened. However, data from the Kentucky Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System shows that only 63 percent of Kentuckians who should have screening tests have had them.
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 lack of regular exercise.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society recommend colorectal cancer screening for men and women aged 50 to 75. For African-Americans, screening should begin earlier, at age 45.