Carroll County Times

Health Department: County encourages getting screened for cancer

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and the staff of the Cigarette Restitution Fund Program with the Carroll County Health Department is encouraging residents to consider screening for this cancer.

In 2000, as a result of the Master Settlement against tobacco companies, Maryland was awarded funds to create a long-term plan to fight cancer and reduce tobacco use and related illnesses. The plan became known as the Cigarette Restitution Fund Program, and it administers grants to three essential branches: Cancer Prevention, Education, Screening and Treatment; Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation; and Minority Outreach and Assistance.

Carroll County's awarded cancer funding has been used to educate the general public on cancer prevention and screenings, and more importantly to provide colonoscopies to uninsured and income eligible residents. To ensure their goals are accomplished, they have forged partnerships with Carroll Hospital Center, Carroll Digestive Disease Center, several local gastroenterologists and others to provide education and screening tests.

During the last ten years, thousands of our residents have received cancer prevention and screening education at community events, schools, organizations and through local media. In the early years of the program, we administered fecal occult blood kits to interested residents and actually screened more than 1,500 people. In more recent years, our program drifted from fecal occult blood kits and has promoted colonoscopies. Since then, more than 500 colonoscopies have been provided for under-insured or uninsured income eligible residents.

Though having a colonoscopy could greatly reduce the spread of one's colon cancer, one third of our population still has not been screened. Our mission is to close that gap. Most insurances cover screening colonoscopies and our program may assist those who do not have insurance. Talk to your health-care provider to see when you should be screened for colon cancer. Even though a colonoscopy is the gold standard, there are other options, and the best test is the one that you will do.