Blanchfield Army Community Hospital
Fort Campbell, KY – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report colon cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States and medical officials said early detection greatly increases survivability. For most beneficiaries, a convenient, mail-in test performed at home is all that is needed to check for the disease.
“Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is cancer of the gastrointestinal track, which includes the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum. It’s most common in people age 50 and older so that’s when we typically recommend screening, earlier if there is a family history of colon cancer. If you discover it early there is a great survival rate,” said Capt. Douglas Engle, a physician assigned to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital’s internal medicine clinic.
“In the past, a procedure called colonoscopy performed in the hospital under sedation, was the only method to test for it, but we now have a much easier, noninvasive screening method for colon cancer that beneficiaries can do at home,” Engle stated.
Patients simply collect a small sample of their stool at home and place it in a test kit ordered by their healthcare provider.
It includes a pre-addressed postage-paid package used to send the sample to a laboratory for testing.
The lab looks in the sample for DNA that is related to colon cancer, as well as polyps of the colon, that can turn into cancer, later on, Engle explained.
“It is very good at finding cancer, and even better at ruling out cancer when it is not there. If you have a negative test, then we’re very confident that you do not have colon cancer,” said Engle.
In most cases, with the DNA screening, Engle said the results will be negative and the test results will be good for three years. If the test results from the DNA test come back positive, patients will still need to have a colonoscopy so their provider may get a better look and biopsy any suspicious lesions for further testing.
Engle said that early detection is key to saving lives and the DNA test makes it very easy. “It’s very important. We want beneficiaries, over age 50 to have testing done,” said Engle.
Early indicators for colon cancer include colorectal polyps which may not cause any symptoms. This is why early medical screening through methods like colonoscopy or DNA stool screening are so important. More advanced symptoms may include blood in or on your bowel movement, stomach aches, pains or cramps that do not go away, and unexplained weight loss.
Patients should speak with their primary care team during annual wellness exams to determine if a colon cancer screening is needed.
Screening is not required for patients who have had a normal colonoscopy within the past ten years. Healthcare providers can have a test kit mailed to beneficiaries who they determine require a current screening or discuss other testing options.
BACH patients may schedule primary care appointments, including an annual wellness exam, by calling the hospital’s appointment line at 270.798.4677 or 931.431.4677 or by using www.tricareonline.com