Grant now providing colon cancer screenings across Georgia

Grant now providing colon cancer screenings across Georgia
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 6:08 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - WALB’s Jim Wallace sat down with a cancer expert that says Georgia may be able to get colon cancer screening more easily.

Cynthia Merchant is the CEO of Horizons, which is South Georgia’s Cancer Coalition.

Cynthia, do you have some exciting news about cancer screenings that are going to be available for more people across the state?

“Absolutely Jim. And thank you for this opportunity. We are meeting tonight with a number of physicians and healthcare professionals in our community to give them an update on the colon cancer screening program that we implemented in South Georgia and Southeast Georgia with the CDC. We were the recipient of a grant, five-year grant, that is administered by Georgia CORE, which is our partner,” Merchant said. As well as Augusta University, Albany Area Primary Health, East Georgia Health Care, and Horizons. And we are the provider of the navigation. Which is truly the backbone of the program itself of being able to get patients in. Get them screened, get them prepped, making sure that we make available to the uninsured and the underinsured. FIT Tests, which is a home test for colon cancer if you are appropriate for that, and then for colonoscopy. So we are reporting out tonight to tell people what we’ve done in the first half of this grant. And what we are looking forward to doing in the future. Because we feel that this is something hopefully we can keep ongoing.”

It’s so important to have a colonoscopy and to be able to provide it to people who are underinsured. Is the screening rate very bad in South Georgia?

“You know we have work to do,” Merchant said. “We have a goal for our program. The minimum to get to be sustainable we feel like is 60%. That’s the screening rate. And a number of our clinics are there now. That we’ve been working with. We have some ways to go yet on others. But 60% is a really, for a clinic, a decent rate. But our real goal is 80%. Trying to get all of the people that we can train. And that is a combination. It’s not always a colonoscopy. If you have a FIT, and it’s not positive, you are good for another year and you can do the home test. But we are really trying to make sure that it is available, that there is no barrier because of cost. And we can help with transportation. So it’s a team effort. It definitely takes a team to pull this off. And we’re just proud to be a part of it, and proud to let everyone know what’s going on with it. And these screenings could definitely help prevent. Catching it early is the key. Colon cancer is absolutely the key. Because they can remove polyps and pre-cancerous polyps when they do the colonoscopy. We have seen lives be saved. We know if we can get more people screened, we are going to save more lives. We are going to do that in Georgia, and we are excited about it.”