A nation-wide effort is being made to increase screenings for colon cancer. The cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America behind lung cancer.
"Colon Cancer is a silent killer," said Angelina County and Cities Health District Director Sharon Shaw. "You don't know you have it. Very prevalent in our black community."
According to Dr. Sid Roberts, about 23 million people between the ages of 50 and 75 are not getting tested. Roberts said 2016 will see 9,680 new cases of colorectal cancer. Roberts said Angelina County will see an estimates 36 new cases and 14 deaths by the end of the year.
Looking at the high numbers concerns Roberts, who believes that the numbers could be lowered with just a simple test.
"If you have a polyp that isn't cancer yet, and you remove it, you prevent colon cancer," Roberts said. "That is beautiful. We just need to do the test."
The Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society are working with health districts across the country to increase cancer screenings to 80 percent by 2018. According to Roberts, if the imitative is successful then an estimated 270 deaths can be eliminated in East Texas over the next two years. Roberts said getting the numbers up is a two-fold issue.
"There are two issues," Roberts said. "One is awareness of the need, and one is actually doing the screening. Only two out of three are doing the screenings that are eligible to. We want to get that up to four out of five."
Because of the need, the Temple Cancer Center, CHI St.Luke's Health Memorial, the health district, American Cancer Society and CPRIT, the state funded Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas are joining forces. The program locally is being pushed forward by a grant through the University of Texas at Tyler.
"We need to make sure that eligible patients are screened even if they don't have insurance, so they don't need to worry about the cost," Roberts said.
The heath district wanted to get involved to help the lower-income residents who may not be able to afford a visit to the hospital or doctor.
"We are providing individuals the ages between 50 and 75 who are lower income and are not insured the opportunity to have a fit test for colon cancer and a colonoscopy if needed."
Roberts said while testing is supposed to begin at 50, people who notice changes in their bowel movements or increased constipation or diarrhea should consult their physician about a FIT test.