Colon cancer screening

Should you be screened for colon cancer?

“Challenge accepted” is a series highlighting the work the UK Markey Cancer Center is doing to fight cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. To learn more about how we’re helping Kentuckians live longer, fuller and healthier lives, read the latest Markey Cancer Center Annual Report. In this entry, we sit down with Melissa Hounshell, Markey community outreach director, to discuss the importance of colorectal cancer screening.

Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?

Melissa Hounshell

Melissa Hounshell

Hounshell: In general, colon cancer screenings begin at age 50 and continue until age 75. If there is a family history, doctors recommend you start earlier. If there are any questions, you should always ask your family physician. There are several different types of screenings available, including fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Screening can catch cancer early, when it’s at its most treatable, and it can also prevent the disease by identifying abnormal growths called polyps, which can turn into cancer later on.

What is a FIT and what are its benefits?

Hounshell: FIT (fecal immunochemical test) is a high-sensitivity stool test that you can do at home. It’s used to test the stool for blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye (called occult blood). Once completed, the FIT is then mailed to a lab, where you will get a positive or negative result. If it’s positive, a follow-up colonoscopy will be recommended.

A FIT is often used to detect bleeding in the digestive tract when there are no other signs or symptoms of a digestive problem. Blood in the stool can be caused by a number of conditions, including colon cancer. It is important to remember that a FIT should be repeated each year.

How can people sign up for a screening or learn more about FIT tests?

Hounshell: Most primary care doctors should offer FIT testing. I always recommend starting with your personal physician. They know your health and your family history. Markey also has FITs available at several of our screening events throughout the year. For more information, please call 859-323-2034.

Why is screening for colorectal cancer so important, especially in Kentucky?

Hounshell: Colon cancer is largely a preventable disease. Kentucky has historically ranked very high in incidence rates. However, through the efforts of many organizations and advocates all across Kentucky in the past 15 years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in incidence rates and deaths.

These screenings work! We just have to continue our efforts to educate folks on the importance of getting screened.

How does colorectal cancer screening fit into Markey’s outreach mission?

Hounshell:  I talk about colon cancer screening every place I go. Much of my time is spent traveling the state and talking with people about the importance of cancer screenings, education, and general health and wellness. It is extremely important to open the dialogue with folks and to make sure they understand what types of screenings are available to them. I consider it an honor to meet so many good people and help them better understand screenings.


Next steps:

 

Challenge accepted: Markey strives to improve access to colorectal cancer screening across Kentucky

“Challenge accepted” is a series highlighting the work the Markey Cancer Center is doing to fight cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. To learn more about how we’re helping Kentuckians live longer, fuller and healthier lives, read the latest Markey Cancer Center Annual Report. In this entry, we celebrate Colon Cancer Awareness Month by looking at Markey’s outreach efforts to combat this disease.

Thanks to screening tests like colonoscopies, colorectal cancer can be identified at its earliest stages when it’s most treatable. Unfortunately, many Kentuckians don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

In fact, in 2001, Kentucky had the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the United States, and was ranked 49 of the 50 states for colorectal cancer screening, said Tom Tucker, PhD, MPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

This startling statistic spurred several major cancer groups in Kentucky into action, leading to the launch of a program encouraging primary care physicians to recommend and schedule colorectal screening. In rural areas of the state where primary care physician care is less common, individuals from the community were recruited for screening and asked to encourage their age-eligible friends to also be screened.

By 2008, the results of these efforts were clear.

“In seven years, we went from just over one-third of the population age 50 and older ever having had a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to nearly two-thirds,” Tucker said, noting that the state also went from No. 49 in colorectal screening to No. 25, while colorectal cancer incidence rates dropped by 25 percent and mortality rates dropped by 30 percent.

But in spite of the progress, there is still much to do: A third of age-eligible Kentuckians are still not screened for colorectal cancer.

This year, Melissa Hounshell, the community outreach director for Markey, will focus her efforts on distributing FIT kits in the population centers where individuals are least likely to pursue screening. FIT kits are at-home tests that are then mailed to a lab, that screen for blood in the stool, a potential marker of colorectal cancer.

“Markey is committed more than ever to leading a comprehensive cancer screening education and prevention program,” Hounshell said. “It’s about reaching some of those people who have been unreachable and really embedding ourselves in the community.”


Next steps:

Circle of Love benefits more than 800 Kentucky kids.

Circle of Love benefits Kentucky children in need

Thanks to the generosity of UK employees, volunteers and students, hundreds of Kentucky children in need will have their holiday wish lists fulfilled this year.

The Circle of Love gift drive, coordinated by the UK HealthCare Volunteer Services Office, will benefit more than 800 kids in nine Kentucky counties this holiday season.

Following the month-long gift drive, Santa Claus and volunteers from UK HealthCare joined forces last Friday to help load school buses and vans with wrapped gifts for local children and families.

Volunteer Services Manager Katie Tibbitts said this year’s drive was a success.

“The gifts here today may be the only gifts these kids receive for the holidays,” she said. “It is absolutely wonderful what our UK HealthCare employees have done for these children.”

Check out photos from Friday’s event!

5 tips from the Falls Fair

5 tips from UK HealthCare’s Falls Fair

Last week, UK HealthCare hosted the Falls Fair, an event that provided educational resources to older members of our community and their caregivers and highlighted the risks and dangers of falling.

We had a great turnout from the community as well as support from local businesses and groups. Organizations like the YMCA of Central Kentucky, Kentucky Arthritis Foundation, Lexington’s chapter of the Taoist Tai Chi Society and more were on hand to share the importance of physical activity to help improve balance and coordination, build strength, and reduce the likelihood and severity of falls.

Other organizations like Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, gave out information about its Skilled Rehabilitation Program, and Safe Kids Fayette County offered tips about how grandparents can keep children safe while in their care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year.

Amanda Rist, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse and is the Injury Prevention Coordinator for the Trauma Program Office here at UK HealthCare. Rist organized the Falls Fair event and said older adults who have fallen or are afraid of falling should speak with their doctor.

“If you have fallen and you have not told anyone, then you need to talk to your doctor,” she said. “There are things we can do to help you gain independence back.”

Here are our five top tips to help prevent falls:

  • Know your limitations and risk. Talk to your doctor.
  • If you are on multiple medications, make sure to manage them well and talk to your doctor and pharmacist.
  • Stay active. Get into an exercise program. Exercise improves strength, balance and coordination.
  • Get your eyes checked regularly
  • Make sure your house and stairways are clutter-free and well lit.

Next steps: To schedule an appointment with a UK HealthCare doctor, visit our Appointment website.

We look forward to seeing you at the next Falls Fair!