Surgeons Craig Box, Britt Jordan, and Will Theus of Northwest Georgia Surgical Associates, located in the Gordon Hospital Medical Office Building, have been performing free colonoscopies for financially eligible residents of Gordon County in partnership with the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition and Magnolia Foundation, according to JoAnn Silvers, BSN, cancer nurse navigator for Gordon Hospital.
“This pilot program began in February and has been so successful that it has been funded through Tobacco Settlement Dollars through next June in the amount of $62,000, which allows the program to be spread throughout a nine county area,” Silvers explained. “We are very grateful to our local doctors for participating in this much-needed program.
Currently, the program is offered for residents of Chattooga, Floyd, Gordon and Polk counties for medically underserved patients between the ages of 50 and 69 who cannot afford this vital screening.
“To date, 32 patients have received their colonoscopies in the four counties,” Silvers added. “Nine patients had pre-cancerous tubular adenomas removed during the procedure and received instructions to have a repeat screening in three years. One patient was discovered to have Stage III colon cancer and has already received life-saving surgery as a result.”
According to Magnolia Foundation founder, Lisa Smith, the program has three primary goals: Remove barriers blocking access to colorectal-cancer-screening services, increase participation in recommended screenings for colorectal cancer and improve area colorectal-cancer-screening rates by the year 2012.
“This pilot program will help accomplish all three," she said.
Program partners include Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, Magnolia Foundation, Floyd Medical Center, Gordon Hospital, Redmond Regional Medical Center, Harbin Clinic Gastroenterology, Rome Gastroenterology Associates, Northwest Georgia Surgical Associates, Chattooga, Floyd, Gordon and Polk County Health Departments, Etowah Pathology Associates, Southeastern Pathology, Cancer Navigators, and the Medicine Shoppe.
“All physicians are donating their time,” Silvers said. “Pathologists are also donating their services should they find any polyps or areas that need a biopsy.”
Local county health departments are the first points of contact for patients who may be referred to them to complete eligibility forms. Approved forms will be sent to the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, and patients will then be directed to either Gordon Hospital or the Magnolia Foundation to be navigated through the process.
Colonoscopy procedures are being performed at the three hospitals. If cancer is found, the patient is then referred to either Silvers at Gordon Hospital (if the patient is from Gordon County) or Cancer Navigators, Inc. (if from Chattooga, Floyd or Polk Counties). The cancer navigators will help guide the patient to financial and treatment resources.
The additional associated costs for this screening program will be covered by the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition and Magnolia Foundation. For more information, Gordon County residents may contact the Gordon County Health Department at 706-624-1444 or JoAnn Silvers at 706-879-4746.