The gold standard for finding or preventing colon cancer, colonoscopy is a valued tool. Using a scope doctors explore the colon looking for abnormalities.
“If there are any polyps there that might be pre-cancerous they can be removed at that time,” says Laurie Wise, cancer nurse navigator with Lee Memorial Health System.
Despite a growing number of colonoscopies being performed, the CDC reports more than 20 million adults who should be screened, have not. Fifty-five percent are uninsured.
“So if you don’t have insurance, if you don’t have any resources to pay for the colonoscopy, people in our community go many, many years without having it,” says Wise.
Thomas Hayes was one of them. A routine lab tested found small traces of blood in his stool. At 58 years old he never had a colonoscopy.
“I had nothing to make me concerned. If I had the insurance, if I had the means to get a colonoscopy, I would have done it years ago,” says Hayes.
Colorectal cancer is the number two-cancer killer, a tragedy when most cases could have been caught and cured through a timely colonoscopy. Community fund-raising is the key to leveling the odds.
Last year the Regional Cancer Center teamed up with 21st Century Oncology for a 5k, raising more than $35,000.
“We use that money for patients, specifically for patients that are underfunded, so that they could have the colonoscopies they need,” says Wise.
Thomas considers it a life-saving gift. Doctors found cancer and removed it in time. He is now cancer free.
“The colonoscopy was performed and they found a tumor in my rectum. I went through radiation and chemotherapy for like six, seven months. So I feel blessed,” says Hayes.