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Fighting colon and rectal cancer

Wayne County Commissioners (from the left) Wendell Kay, Brian Smith and Jonathan Fritz are pictured on March 20 with Laura Toole of the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, who accepted their proclamation of Colon Cancer Awareness Saves Unlimited Adult Lives (CASUAL) Day on March 27.
TRR photo by David Hulse

By David Hulse
April 2, 2014

HONESDALE, PA — The numbers are getting better, but Northeastern PA counties still have colon and rectal cancer incidence rates 15% or 16% higher, and mortality rates 16% higher, than the national average.

Noting his own personal fears, Wayne County Commissioners Chair Brian Smith asked, “Why?”

Laura Toole of the Scranton office of the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute on March 20 told him that a 12-year study found “suspicious lifestyles,” including a high- fat, low-fiber diet; tobacco and alcohol use; and lack of exercise.

“However, in the last 10 years, those rates have gone down, due to earlier diagnosis and more screening,” Toole said.

She said the risk is about equal among males and females, but men show higher percentages because the general population contains more women than men.

The earlier these cancers are detected, the more treatable they are, she added. People at age 50 are advised to be screened, and those with family histories of bowel disease should be screened in their 40s or earlier.

Toole said greater public awareness of the risk is part of the rationale for Colon Cancer Awareness Saves Unlimited Adult Lives (CASUAL) Day. Toole came before the commissioners on March 19 to accept their proclamation of March 27 as CASUAL Day this year.

Fundraising from the sale of colon cancer pins and T-shirts related to the event help pay screening among low-income and under-served populations, Toole said.

Commissioner Wendell Kay admitted that the subject was never one he was comfortable discussing. “When I hit 50, my doctor recommended a colonoscopy, but when I learned it would cost me $1,800, it became less of a priority. I had the $1,800 then, but a lot of other people don’t.

Kay credited the changes in health insurance that now provide for preventive screening.

Commissioner Jonathan Fritz noted that as many people don’t know their family medical histories, questions should be asked at holiday and family gatherings.

In other business, the commissioners accepted the quarterly financial report of Children and Youth Services (CYS), which totaled $1,21,099 in spending; approved an intergovernmental agreement with Pike County for the housing of Pike prisoners, said to be mostly female prisoners, at the Wayne Correctional Facility at the rate of $65 per day; and approved the hiring of James Baldwin and Amy Harrison as CYS caseworkers, salaried at $30,654.45 and $32,024.70 respectively.