Imagine a scenario where you have developed a medical condition that is slowly deteriorating your health and you are completely unaware of this condition. What would be more beneficial to your overall health? Getting screened for the condition early and finding out you have it, or foregoing screening and allowing the condition to deteriorate your body over time? Many would agree that the first option is more beneficial than the second. Over the last 20 years, research has found an overall reduction in cancer mortality rates by 30%, and this decrease is partly attributable to more people getting screened. Despite this encouraging trend, many people avoid screening due to the fear of knowing they might have a life-threatening condition. In light of these concerns, we at UHRU are here to help provide support to those who are hesitant to be screened by providing accurate information and resources on cancer.
In 2020, there were 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer reported and 53,000 deaths. It’s estimated that 55-60% of these deaths could have been prevented through regular screening. In Georgia, only 68% of adults between the ages of 50 to 75 have had a colonoscopy. One reason why fewer adults are screened in Georgia than in other states, which have screening rates close to 75%, is the health care disparities that exist between different groups in the state. Many residents of rural communities do not have adequate access to a primary care provider who can recommend screening. Many adults also lack access to health insurance coverage that would cover the cost of a colonoscopy. There are also disparities in awareness of the life-saving benefits of receiving a colonoscopy. At UHRU, we are working to not only improve access to colorectal cancer screening in rural communities, but also provide accurate information regarding these life-saving cancer screenings.
Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist can remove pre-cancerous growths and polyps from the colon or rectum before they have a chance to turn into cancer. Other screenings exist for different types of cancer including mammograms for breast cancer, pap smears for cervical cancer, prostate exams for prostate cancer, and CT scans for lung cancer. One particularly interesting thing to note about lung cancer is that it is the leading cause of cancer mortality, but after a screening measure was introduced in 2011, we began to see a reduction in lung cancer rates. This further highlights the importance of developing, implementing, and increasing awareness of widespread cancer screening programs.
February is National Cancer Prevention Month. At UHRU, we want to spread the word about how important cancer screenings are in helping reduce cancer deaths. The pros of getting screened outweigh the cons significantly, so we must do more to make sure every Georgian has access to and knowledge of cancer screenings. For more detailed information on cancer screenings visit the CDC website or go to the American Cancer Society website.