Other Voices

The search for a cancer cure goes on, but we know one thing that works

Moncrief Cancer Institute and JPS Health Network offer free colon cancer screening kits.
Moncrief Cancer Institute and JPS Health Network offer free colon cancer screening kits. Star-Telegram

Finding a cure for cancer would be a big deal.

What if I told you there already was one? Recommended screening guidelines for colon cancer offer us what is darn close to a cure for cancer.

Colon cancer screenings can prevent colorectal cancers, because finding this type early makes it one of the most successfully treated diseases.

American Cancer Society statistics predict 9,680 Texans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year and 3,520 will die from it. In fact, it’s the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

Even so, we know a third of all adults who fall within the recommended screening guidelines are not being tested. Why aren’t people lined up to take advantage of what is known to rid a person of pre-cancerous polyps?

Maybe it’s not considered polite dinner conversation. Colon cancer doesn’t get as much attention as other cancers. And let’s face it, the idea of a colonoscopy never excites people.

Perhaps the word free might get some attention.

Thousands of qualifying residents in Tarrant and 20 surrounding counties can now be tested for free.

A multiyear research collaboration between JPS Health Network and Moncrief Cancer Institute has led to a greater understanding of patient-preferred screening methods and establishment of a screening protocol.

We’ve learned that patients prefer the less-invasive home fecal immunochemical test (FIT) to colonoscopy.

Unlike a colonoscopy, these “user-friendly” FIT kits do not require colon-cleansing prep or taking a day off work. This very effective screening is done in the privacy of home.

Our program significantly increased screening rates and found several cancers, all of which were at curable early stages.

As a result, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has awarded Moncrief a multiyear grant to expand the FIT kit effort. It’s the largest prevention grant CPRIT has ever given.

Knowing how important these life-saving tests can be, the American Cancer Society is partnering with such institutions as JPS Health Network and Moncrief Cancer Institute in the “80 by 18” initiative, a national push to screen 80 percent of the unscreened population by 2018.

JPS Health Network has led countywide efforts to reach that goal.

Moncrief Cancer Institute and JPS have mailed more than 18,000 kits to under-served residents who qualify — those over 50 years old who have no history of colon cancer and are not up to date on their screenings.

Moncrief has more to give, too. To learn more, contact Stacie Miller at Stacie.Miller@Moncrief.com or 888-223-8620.

Colon screening can actually prevent cancer from occurring. Personally, I would rather prevent cancer than to need a cure.

So in celebrating March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, I wish you many healthy returns of the month and offer you this free screening kit. If it’s time for a colon cancer screening, I can think of no better way to mark the occasion.

Dr. Mark Koch is a physician at JPS and serves on the American Cancer Society’s Tarrant County Advisory Board.