Highland News Leader

St. Joseph’s looks to increase colorectal cancer screenings rates

Members of the HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital-Highland staff and HSHS Medical Group staff signed the “80% by 2018” pledge to help raise awareness about colorectal cancer screening and to reach 80 percent screening rates for adults age 50 and older.
Members of the HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital-Highland staff and HSHS Medical Group staff signed the “80% by 2018” pledge to help raise awareness about colorectal cancer screening and to reach 80 percent screening rates for adults age 50 and older. Provided photo

Colorectal cancer screening has been proven to save lives. HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland recently announced it has made the pledge to help increase colorectal cancer screening rates by supporting the “80% by 2018” initiative, led by the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, an organization co-founded by ACS and CDC.

Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. However, it is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented. Through proper colorectal cancer screening, doctors can find and remove hidden growths — called polyps — in the colon, before they become cancerous. Removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.

“80% by 2018” is a National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable initiative in which more than 500 organizations have committed to substantially reducing colorectal cancer as a major public health problem and are working toward the shared goal of 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older being regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. Leading public health organizations, such as ACS, CDC and the NCCRT are rallying organizations to embrace this shared goal.

“This initiative is so important for the people in our community,” said Debbie Elledge, nurse navigator at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “Madison County has a screening rate of around 64 percent, but we are also very close to one of just three regions in the country designated as a hotspot. These regions have shown higher mortality rates from colorectal cancer. Most public and private insurance plans cover colorectal cancer screening for patients age 50 and older. Our ultimate goal is to educate people on the importance of screening, and to detect and treat this deadly disease at an early stage.”


St. Joseph’s Hospital offers many options for screening and treatment of colorectal cancer. More than 600 colonoscopies were performed at the hospital last year. Although colonoscopies are the preferred choice of screening, statistics have shown multiple barriers to this type of screening, including affordability, a lack of current symptoms or known family history, or simple perceptions of the unpleasantness of the procedure. The “80% by 2018” campaign provides vital education to patients not only on the misconceptions about colonoscopies, but also on other screening options.

St. Joseph’s Hospital recently introduced a take home stool test called a fecal immunochemical test kit which can be performed in the privacy of one’s home on an annual basis. These kits are available for $15 at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Spring Health Fair, which takes place April 18, at the Knights of Columbus Hall. More information about registering for the health fair can be found online at stjosephshighland.org.

While colorectal cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent in the U.S. over the last 10 years among adults 50 and older, it is still the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., despite being highly preventable, detectable and treatable. In fact, 132,700 cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in the U.S in 2015. Patients under the age of 50 who may have symptoms such as blood in their stool, weight loss, persistent stomach pains, or a family history of colon cancer may also benefit from screening.

Part of the “80% by 2018” goal is to leverage the energy of multiple, diverse partners to empower communities, patients and providers to increase screening rates. The “80% by 2018” initiative consists of health care providers, health systems, communities, businesses, community health centers, government, non-profit organizations and patient advocacy groups committed to getting more people screened for colorectal cancer to prevent the disease and save lives.

“We are very excited to be joining this initiative to improve colorectal cancer screening rates,” said Melissa Cates, interim chief nursing officer at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “We hope all of our community members will participate with us by getting screened and talking to friends and family who are over 50 years of age about getting screened. Together, we can help eliminate colorectal cancer as a major public health problem.”

Wear blue to raise awareness

Colleagues at St. Joseph’s Hospital, as well as members of the community, are encouraged to wear blue every Friday to raise awareness about Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Pulmonary Rehab Awareness Month that both take place in March. Any group or business that sends a photo to Janice Korte-Couch at St. Joseph’s Hospital will be featured on the hospital’s Facebook campaign to support awareness. Photos can be taken with a camera or cell phone and can be emailed to janice.korte-couch@hshs.org.

For more information, call Debbie Elledge at 618-651-2885.

Five Myths About Colorectal Cancer Debunked

Myth No. 1: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.

Truth: Colorectal cancer is almost as common among women as men. Each year in the US, about 71,000 men and 64,000 women are diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Myth No. 2: Colorectal cancer cannot be prevented.

Truth: In many cases, colorectal cancer can be prevented. Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a small growth called a polyp. If the polyp is found early, it can be removed — stopping colorectal cancer before it starts. These tests can find polyps: colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, or CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy). Talk to your health care provider about which test is best for you. Additional tips to help lower your chances of getting colorectal cancer include maintaining a healthy weight; being physically active; eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains; limiting red meat and processed alcohol; and not using tobacco in any form.

Myth No. 3: African-Americans are not at risk for colorectal cancer.

Truth: African-American men and women are diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer at higher rates than men and women of any other U.S. racial or ethnic group. The reason for this is not yet understood.

Myth No. 4: Age doesn’t matter when it comes to getting colorectal cancer.

Truth: Most colorectal cancers are found in people age 50 and older. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends you start getting checked for this cancer when you’re 50. People who are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer – such as those who have colon or rectal cancer in their families — may need to start testing when they are younger. Talk with your doctor about when you should start getting tested and how often you should be tested.

Myth No. 5: It’s better not to get tested for colorectal cancer because it’s deadly anyway.

Truth: Colorectal cancer is often highly treatable. If it’s found and treated early (while it’s small and before it has spread), the five-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent. But because many people are not being tested the way they should, only about 4 out of 10 are currently diagnosed at this early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful.

Source: American Cancer Society