UK receives $3.75 million from CDC to use for colorectal cancer screening in Kentucky River’s headwater counties

The University of Kentucky Rural Cancer Prevention Center has received a $3.75 million, five-year grant renewal from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use toward the prevention of colorectal cancer in Central Appalachia and other rural areas.

The UK Center is one of 26 CDC-funded Prevention Research Centers in the country, Mallory Powell reports for UKNow. It works with a team of community members, public health professionals and researchers to conduct and support community-based, participatory prevention research toward rural cancer prevention in the Kentucky River Area Development District.

Over the next five years, this $3.75 million grant will allow Dr. Richard Crosby, director of the RCPC and his team to develop, implement, and disseminate an at-home colorectal screening test that has the potential to drastically increase annual colorectal cancer screenings in rural areas, Powell reports.

Kentucky has the nation’s highest rates of cancer incidence and death, with more people from Appalachian Kentucky dying from colorectal cancer than those diagnosed with the same cancer in other regions of the state.

“This is about serving Kentuckians, and we are targeting an area of rural Appalachia that has extremely high rates of colorectal cancer morbidity,” Crosby told Powell. “We’re focusing on a project that engages people at a point when we can still do something to prevent their death.”

The at-home colorectal screening test will allow the person to collect a small stool sample per instruction in the privacy of their home and mail it in the provided kit to the lab for testing, Powell notes. The lab will then determine if there are any potentially cancerous cells. If the test comes back positive, the RCPC staff will assist the participant with further testing and treatment as needed.

Colorectal cancer is usually a slow growing cancer and has a higher survival rate if detected and treated early. Late diagnosis because of delayed or lack of screening causes the chance of survival rate to significantly drop.

Delayed or lack of screening for colorectal cancer is often a problem for people living in rural areas like Appalachia because of healthcare access, Powell notes. The Kentucky River ADD falls into this category, since all eight counties in the district are classified as health-care professional shortage Areas by the Health Services and Resources Administration. This district is also one of the poorest in the nation.

The colorectal screening work of the RCPC will build on the successes of its previous prevention program for cervical cancer prevention and screening, which is now being used in 18 local Kentucky health departments and has also been adapted for use in 30 local health departments in North Carolina.

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