NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. There are about 150 thousand new cases every year. It will kill nearly a third of those people who are diagnosed, but it is a cancer that is easily prevented.

The Fair Haven Community Health Center is just one of three in the country, involved in developing a national model for screening colon cancer among its’ under-served and uninsured population.

Nationally, screening for colon cancer is around 65 percent, but it’s even lower among the uninsured and under-served. At issue — financial and cultural barriers.

Dr. Suzanne Lagarde is the CEO of Fair Haven Community Health Center.

“Not being able to really understand the importance and why it saves lives. Some cultures it’s perceived to be embarrassing talking about their colon and their bodily functions.”

She is working to get more of their patient population screened for colon cancer– paid for by a national grant. The key to signing them up, she says, is a network of specialists willing to see their patients and patient navigation.

“Because of this navigation, the patients come. They are well prepped and that’s really what they want. They don’t want to have a patient who doesn’t either keep an appointment or comes and then is not prepped.”

Prepping them is patient navigator Marelyn Vega.

Vega said, “I also call them the day before to make sure, you’re ready for the prep? you’re going to it at 4 o’clock? you’re doing you’re liquid diet?”

Every detail is followed through.

“There are some females.” explained Vega, “That by culture it has to be a female doctor. So I have to make sure – who’s going to do the procedure – is it a female doctor.”

Fear is what kept Jeanette Collins from getting a colonoscopy at the recommended age of 50.

Collins said, “I was afraid that they were going to find something. I have a couple of relatives that did have it done and a couple of them had polyps and I have a family history of different kinds of cancers so I said, Jeanette, you’re 53, it’s time to get yourself together.”

For Madeline Rodriguez. taking advantage of the program brought relief.

“Not because I wasn’t informed or anything. ” said Rodriguez, “I just couldn’t – sometimes you just don’t have the money for it. I’m glad I got it done. It’s better to do it at the time you are due for it to wait, you might find something and it might be too late.”

Both women are polyp-free — with ten years util the next colonoscopy.

A grant from the American Cancer Society, through Walgreens, is making it possible for patients at Fair Haven Community Health Centerc to get screened for colon cancer.

The clinic treats more than 15 thousand people a year.

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