Bridging the Great Health Divide: Colon cancer disparities and screening

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 1:37 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Gray Media Group has committed to investigating the significant gap that exists between the health outcomes of people living in one region versus those living in another.

Bridging the Great Health Divide looks to expose the health gaps that exist between the Mississippi Delta and Appalachian regions and the rest of nation.

WMC’s Andrew Douglas caught up with Methodist Cancer Institute Doctor Ian Gaillard from the digital desk to discuss colon cancer and its impact on the Mid-South.

Dr. Gaillard is a gastroenterologist and spoke about what he is seeing in the region. “Colon cancer is unfortunately on the rise,” he said. “One can look at it from the standpoint that it’s on the rise because of the increased ability to screen for colon cancer. Therefore, we’re finding it far more frequently. But more importantly, we are finding precancerous polyps far more frequently than cancer.”

Dr. Gaillard talked about a variety of disparities, including age and the lack of insurance, impacting those in the Mid-South.

“With these patients not having commercial insurance, they are forced to have a decrease access to health care,” Dr. Gaillard said. “As a result when they eventually have a colonoscopy or it’s recommended that they have a colonoscopy, if a cancer is found, typically that cancer will be more advanced. Therefore, decreasing that individual’s risk or rate of survival.”

Common signs of colon cancer could include abdominal pain, weight loss, a change in the frequency of bowel movement, or bloody or black stool.

Dr. Gaillard said specific demographics are more at risk.

“Some of these rates are astounding,” Dr. Gaillard said. “Such that the number of individuals diagnosed with colon cancer of African ancestry has increased to 40%. In addition, the rate of death has certainly increased in an astounding rate as well. So, these are issues whereby patients must serve as their own advocate.”

For more information on prevention and screening, check out the national cancer institute.

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