Flu clinics offered by the Fayette County Health Department helped to kick start a new program that helps diagnose colorectal cancer.
And the results from that first group of fecal immunochemical tests surprised FCHD officials.
As of Oct. 31, the department had distributed 55 kits, and of those, 41 of the kits had been returned. Of the 41 kits returned and tests run, 15 were found to be abnormal.
That means the rate of abnormal tests was 36.6 percent, much higher than the national rate for abnormal FIT tests – 7-13 percent.
“We didn’t expect the rates that we got,” FCHD Administrator Rhonda Andrews said. “They more than double the national rate.”
“I was surprised,” she said. The CDC told us to expect the first few to be high, but nothing like this.
“We were so concerned that we called a tech person to make sure that we were doing it right, because normally, a false positive is virtually non-existent.
“We’re not sure what that means, but there will be follow up with the individuals’ physicians,” said Andrews, who initiated the process of offering FIT kits in Fayette County after losing her husband to colon cancer about two years ago.
“Both the individual and that person’s physician is notified of the test results," Andrews said.
The FCHD’s flu clinics helped to spread the word about the availability of the FIT kits.
“We have a few walk-ins (to request a kit), but the majority learned about it at our flu clinics,” Andrews said.
“They were blind to the process and didn’t know that we are now offering this.”
This test is a quick and easy, take-home stool sample kit that is very sensitive to any blood found in a stool sample.
FIT identifies patients for which the presence of fecal occult blood in stool is associated with gastrointestinal disease including colon cancer.
Any type of rectal bleeding is abnormal and should be evaluated by a person’s physician.
Andrews emphasizes that a colonoscopy is the best screening for colorectal cancer, but adds that using a FIT kit "is better than doing nothing."
Colorectal cancer is the third-most prevalent type of cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
A person’s lifetime risk of developing CRC is 1 in 20.
Although CRC is one of the deadliest forms of cancer it can be cured if caught early or prevented all together.
Regular screenings, such as a colonoscopy, can often find colorectal cancer early, when it is most likely to be curable, or prevented.
Some polyps, or growths, can be found and removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer.
The greatest risk factor of colorectal cancer is the failure to be screened. For many reasons, some people are resistant to the idea of having a colonoscopy.
Many physicians report talking to their patients about the benefits of a colonoscopy only to hear that the patient will not have one.
A Fecal Immunochemical Test maybe a good option for people ages 50-75 who are resistant to getting a colonoscopy.
The health department can bill these tests to private insurance and there will be no cost to the patient so long as they turn the kit in.