PADUCAH — Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Colon Cancer Awareness month activities used to educate the community about colon cancer symptoms, risks and treatments were canceled in March. However, the topic deserves to be revisited now that Baptist Health Paducah is providing elective services and screenings once again.

Kentucky has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in the nation, and the second-highest occurrence in under age 50 incidence, which is rapidly increasing for unknown reasons. Up to 70 percent of early-age onset colorectal cancers present with no known risk factors.

Signs and symptoms of this cancer can include rectal bleeding, change in bowel habit, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, anemia, unexplained weight loss, low back pain or cramping, feeling bloated, low mean red cell volume, raised platelets, abnormal liver function, low hemoglobin and raised inflammatory markers. 

Family history also plays a factor. A first-degree relative with colorectal cancer increases your risk by two-three times. About 15 percent of young adult colorectal cancers are associated with known hereditary syndromes.

In 2018, Kentucky followed the American Cancer Society guidelines for colorectal screening, meaning insurance coverage for normal risk screening now begins at age 45, rather than age 50. 

The Kentucky Department for Public Health administers a screening program for colon cancer that covers screening and surveillance colonoscopies for those uninsured or underinsured that meet financial guidelines.

In 2016, changes in insurance coverage and coding for colonoscopies further reduced financial barriers and in 2019, Kentucky passed a law to cover multi-gene panel testing coverage with no cost sharing for those meeting national comprehensive cancer network guidelines for hereditary cancer risk testing. 

Colorectal cancer screening rates have more than doubled since 2002. Because of increased screening, 640 Kentuckians either will not develop colorectal cancer or die from it in 2020 compared to 15 years ago.

Speak to your primary care provider about scheduling a screening colonoscopy. For additional information on the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, visit kickingbutt.org.   

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