The main reason people do not screen for colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women in King County, is due to a lack of awareness, according to King County officials. Public Health – Seattle & King County is trying to change this fact with a new education campaign launched in March.
“Colon cancer can kill, but it doesn’t have to. It’s up to each one of us to make sure our friends and family members over 50 years of age get screened for this absolutely preventable disease,” said King County Executive Ron Sims. “Talk about colon-health screening with your health-care provider. It’s a conversation that could save your life.”
In King County and nationally, African American, Native American, and Latinos are less likely to be screened and more likely to die from colon cancer than whites. Screening rates are also lower among those without health insurance, with low income, and with less than a high school education.
“It is unacceptable to have higher colon-cancer death rates among the uninsured and people of color when this cancer is preventable,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We are spreading the word about our innovative program that provides quality screening at no charge to those most at risk for colon cancer.”
The new education campaign encourages screening and aims to increase enrollment in the Colon Health Program that provides free screening to low-income uninsured or underinsured residents of King, Clallam, and Jefferson Counties. So far, almost 1,000 people have received screening through the program, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administered by Public Health.
Colon cancer starts with a growth (polyp) that is not cancer. Screening can find and remove growths before they develop into cancer. Early detection can prevent over half of all colon cancer deaths.
Public Health encourages residents to talk to their health-care providers about being screened. Colon health screening is often covered by insurance or Medicare. For those without insurance, ask your health care provider about the Washington Colon Health Program or call the Community Health Access Program at 1-800-756-5437.
For more information about colon cancer and screening and to see the new education campaign, please visit Public Health’s colon health page at www.metrokc.gov/health/colon.