Via Christi to offer free colon cancer screening kits in March

Virtual Colonoscopy
A photo taken during a traditional colonoscopy is seen in this handout photo released by the University of Wisconsin Medical School. (AP Photo/ Courtesy of Dr. Perry J. Pickhardt/ University of Wisconsin Medical School)

WICHITA, Kansas – To help raise colon cancer awareness and promote early detection, Via Christi Health will be distributing free fecal occult blood test kits to anyone 50 and older throughout the month of March.

Colon cancer is largely preventable and treatable when caught early, and one in three adults age 50 to 75 years have not been screened for colon cancer as recommended.

The test is one of several tests used to detect potential colon cancer, can be done in the privacy of your own home.

“While it’s recommended that everyone 50 and older have a colonoscopy, the percentage of people who do so is frightfully low,” said Keisha Humphries, Oncology Service Line director for Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals. “This kit provides an additional screening opportunity in the hopes that it will increase detection among those whose cancer might otherwise not be found until a later stage.”

The free test kits will be available in March — while the 5,000 kits last — at the following Wichita locations:

  • Via Christi Clinic at 1947 Founders’ Circle, 3311 E. Murdock and 13213 W. 21st, 8 a.m – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
  • Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, St. Joseph and St. Teresa information desk and/or gift shops, daily
  • Victory in the Valley’s Victory House, 3755 E. Douglas, 8:30 a.m. – noon and 12:30 – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday

Via Christi’s AMS Labs will process the results for the returned samples at no cost to participants. Via Christi then will compile the data and participants with positive results will be contacted by a Via Christi oncology nurse navigator, who will work with them to get connected to any resources that may be needed.

This marks the eighth year that Via Christi has played a leading role in distributing the kits, for which more than 100 of the returned samples have tested positive for potential colon cancer and recommended for follow-up.

The initiative is being funded by Via Christi and a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Other community partners include the American Cancer Society; Project Access; Colon Cancer Coalition of Wichita, which sponsors the annual Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in May; and Victory in the Valley, which last year launched C-R-A Warriors, a support group for patients and families affected by colon, rectal and/or anal cancer.

Via Christi and its partners also will intensify their efforts to encourage everyone who is 50 and older, or who has a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, to talk with their doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy.

“Many people cringe when their doctor recommends they get a colonoscopy,” said Noel Sanchez, MD, a colon and rectal surgeon at Via Christi Clinic at Founder’s Circle. “But this simple procedure can literally be a life-saver.

“Colonoscopy gets a bad rap because people associate the procedure with a certain amount of humiliation and discomfort,” Sanchez said. “But the reality is many patients won’t even remember the procedure and — if they get a clean bill of health — may not need to have a colonoscopy for another 10 years.”

The second leading cause of cancer death in the United States is colon cancer, which is largely preventable through screening and early treatment. Colorectal cancer screening can cut a person’s risk of dying from the disease in half, yet about 40 percent of those who should get tested don’t do it.

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