INDIANAPOLIS — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer, excluding skin cancers, and is also the second leading cause of death among cancers.
There are methods for screening and prevention that can make a difference when it comes to comes to a person's outcome with this disease, and that is why Ascension St. Vincent is making it easier to get screened for colon cancer with a free, at-home test kit.
For the month of March, you can get a free at-home colon cancer screening kit through Ascension St. Vincent and you can also call their CAREline to start scheduling a colonoscopy.
To qualify for the free kit, you must be between the ages of 45-75 and have not had a colonoscopy within the last 10 years, or used an at-home test kit within the last 12 months.
Dr. Mohamad Yousef is a G.I. doctor with Ascension St. Vincent and says while the colonoscopy is really the Gold Standard of colon screening methods, due to their ability to see the tissue and remove polyps as they screen for cancer, he says the at-home tests like these are still very good at detecting cancer in the stool sample.
He says screenings like the colonoscopy, at-home tests and also scans are important to improve outcomes of people who have this type of cancer.
"In the last several decades, we have noticed the rate of colon cancer has been declining thanks to the screening programs that we have," says Dr. Yousef. "However, there are two gaps that are still there. The first one we started to see, the rate of colon cancer is increasing in younger people. In patients, generally speaking, younger than the age of 50. And the second thing, patients, we are still not where we like to be at when it comes to the colon cancer screening."
Dr. Yousef says of 3 people over the age of 45 who qualify for a colon cancer screening, still one in three will not get screened.
For people who may have anxiety about the procedure, the at-home test kit could be a good place to start.
Colon test kits test the stool for hidden blood that can be shedding from a polyp or early cancer.
The kits are mailed to your home with instructions and you return them via mail.
You collect the stool sample from your home and submit the sample for testing using the enclosed postage.
If any abnormality is detected, you will get a follow-up call to help you schedule a visit with your primary care provider.
Dr. Yousef also encourages anyone under the age of 45, who has a family history of colon cancer, to contact your doctor to set up a colonoscopy before the recommended age of screening.
He also adds if you are experiencing symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or blood in the stool to talk to your doctor.
To request a free at-home kit, call 317-338-5434.
To schedule your colonoscopy, call 317-338-CARE.