Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, affecting both men and women. The best way to protect yourself is with prevention. Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons to prevent colorectal cancer. Screenings save lives.
Thanks to NH Colorectal Screening Program and Colon Cancer Coalition, our Community Health Workers (CHW) have been providing outreach to patients who are due for a screening. They have also provided financial support so we can offer FIT tests (Fecal Immunochemical Test) to patients who are unable to afford screening.
So what do CHWs do to provide colorectal screening outreach?
CHWs are contacting patients, between the ages of 50-75 who have not yet completed a colorectal cancer screening. CHWs will contact patients by phone, email, or letters. They provide education and support on different testing options. Those test options include stool tests such as FIT and cologuard, as well as colonoscopies. The CHWs use this as an opportunity to check if patients have any other unmet health needs, such as open lab tests or unscheduled referrals.
In these calls, the CHWs will talk to patients about concerns or fears they may have about colonoscopy or the stool test. Many patients have worries and anxiety before their colonoscopy. CHWs explain the importance of screenings, especially for patients who may be at high risk due to their family history. They also answer any questions the patient may have as well as explain what patients can expect. Myths and fear of testing are often worse than the test itself. Education is empowering, and give patients power over their healthcare.
Many patients question if their insurance covers a colonoscopy or stool test. Another frequent question we get is, “why do I need a colonoscopy when I feel fine.” CHWs explain the importance of screening and early detection. Delaying screening until you notice a problem can reduce the treatment window. Early prevention is critical for this disease.
Colorectal Cancer Screening Options
There are several different types of screening.
FIT test: This is a stool test done by the patient at home. Patients can opt for this test if they have previously had a positive screen. FIT testing should be done annually.
Cologuard: This is a DNA-stool test. Patients collect a sample at home and mail the sample to a testing company. Cologuard testing provides patients with added privacy and convenience. Patients can opt for this test if they have not previously had a positive screen. This test should be done every three years. Cologuard tests may not be covered by all insurances.
Colonoscopy: This is an outpatient procedure, which involves the insertion of a tube through the rectum so the clinician can view the rectum and colon. Clinicians check for any abnormalities, such as polyps. Colonoscopy is the preferred method of testing, and testing should be completed based on your health and risk factors. Consult with your doctor to create a plan.
For More Information
It is important to stay current on colorectal screening. If you have questions or are overdue for colorectal cancer screening, call and ask to speak with a CHW.
While having a colonoscopy may seem to be an inconvenience, the test itself is not lengthy and involves minimal risk. If you are due for a colonoscopy and find yourself hesitating, consider the benefits of the procedure and make sure you discuss any concerns with your doctor.