JRMC works to increase awareness of colorectal cancer


March is Colorectal Cancer Month, and Jefferson Regional Medical Center is doing its part to raise awareness of the disease.

On Wednesday, JRMC held a live presentation in the Henslee Conference Center on the benefits and importance of getting a regularly scheduled colonoscopy. Meanwhile free colon cancer screening kits are being offered in the hospital’s front lobby.

Kathy Marcussen, a registered nurse at the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care in Little Rock, and Lisa Beck from the South Central Center on Aging in Pine Bluff were on hand to present information and answer questions in the conference center.

“Our goal is to help health-care providers, hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and the general public improve the quality of health care,” Marcussen said.

Marcussen said one out of three Arkansans who are diagnosed with colon cancer die of the disease — the sixth highest colon-cancer mortality rate in the country.

“We’ve got to make some improvements,” she said.

Marcussen emphasized that colon cancer can be prevented with early detection and removal of polyps — a fleshy growth on the lining of the colon. Polyps are small growths but can increase in size and become cancerous, Marcussen said.

Adding that it takes 10 years from formation of a polyp to cancer, she said polyps can be painlessly removed before becoming an issue. Since polyps can return, she stressed the need for regularly scheduled procedures—every 10 years for most people.

Other recommendations included seeking out the proper type of doctor — a gastroenterologist who has lots of experience and adheres to best practices — and closely following all the doctor’s preparation instructions for accurate results.

Marcussen said starting procedures early is also a key factor. She encourages people to get a colonoscopy starting at the age of 50, unless there is a family history of polyps or colon cancer. However, she said African-Americans should start at the age of 45.

Lastly, she recommends sharing the learned information with someone else to get the word out.

“You need to tell your family, friends and Sunday school class …” Marcussen said.

“It’s important to get this knowledge out,” said Wenthom Maxwell of Pine Bluff, a participant who apparently took the recommendation to heart.

People “are fearful because they don’t know. Knowledge does for fear, what light does for darkness,” he said as he gathered flyers to take back to his community.

In addition to the presentation, volunteers manned tables in the front lobby passing out the free cancer screening kits.

“We use this time to promote awareness,” said JRMC spokesperson Lisa Rowland. “In no way are these kits to take the place of a colonoscopy or a screening by a physician.”

Rowland said the kits, which can be used home, are a preliminary step to help a doctor determine if further medical attention is advised.

The cancer screening kits are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Friday.

For more information about colonoscopy visit doitright@afmc.org.

For more information about screening kits contact a family physician or the JRMC Marketing Department at 870-541-7635