Press Release

May 19, 2010


Central Illinois Cancer Screening Program Launched

Illinois Department of Public Health and Southern Illinois University team up for Colorectal Cancer Screening Project  

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – To help detect colorectal cancer, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is teaming up with the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine and its Simmons Cancer Institute (SCI) for a pilot project to provide outreach, public awareness and education on colorectal cancer to residents in 17 central Illinois counties.

SIU will work to coordinate colorectal cancer screenings, follow-up and referrals for treatment if needed, to people age 50-64 years who are uninsured or underinsured and at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Screenings will include blood tests and colonoscopies.

“We are excited to announce this colorectal cancer screening project and happy to be working with the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold said. “Colorectal cancer affects both men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. By educating people about risky behaviors often associated with cancer, what preventive measures can be taken and stressing the need for routine screening, we can help reduce the number of loved ones we lose to this disease.”

Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the nation. In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are currently available, 6,919 people in Illinois were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 2,502 died of the disease. It is estimated that 7,320 Illinoisans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2010 and 2,670 will die of it.

Approximately $57,000 of the $300,000 grant IDPH is awarding to SIU for the pilot project comes from the Vince Demuzio Memorial Colon Cancer Fund. The fund was created to honor Vince Demuzio of Carlinville, a state senator for 30 years, who died in April 2004 from colon cancer.

“Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, which is why a public awareness campaign is so important,” said Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville). “People need to be made aware of the risk factors and how important it is to be screened for the disease. I lost my husband to this disease and I want to do everything I can to help prevent others from dying of colon cancer.”

SIU was developing a pilot project for Sangamon County, but this funding will allow for services in more locations. Residents in 17 central Illinois counties will be eligible to participate in the colorectal cancer screening project – Bond, Cass, Christian, DeWitt, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jersey, Logan, Macoupin, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Sangamon, Scott and Shelby.

“This is an important public health problem and this outreach effort fits well with the mission of both the medical school and Simmons Cancer Institute, so we are grateful the funding,” said Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of SIU School of Medicine.

“We are very enthusiastic that we will be able work in a wider area of the state, connecting with health care providers already helping prevent this cancer and filling in some of the gaps where individuals are not getting screened for colorectal cancer,” added Dr. David E. Steward, professor and chair of internal medicine at SIU who is leading the project.

A coordinator will be hired for the project and SIU and the Cancer Institute will publicize more details as planning is finalized later this summer.

“When detected at the earliest stages, colon cancer is among the most treatable forms of cancer. This grant is an important step in diagnosing this disease in individuals who do not see a physician on a regular basis,” added Dr. K. Thomas Robbins, professor of surgery and SCI director.

The following are ways to help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Screening tests: Regular colorectal cancer screening or testing is one of the best ways to help prevent colorectal cancer. Screenings are recommended for people 50 years of age and older, or younger if they are at high risk for colorectal cancer. You are at higher risk if you or a close relative has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, you have inflammatory bowel disease or you have a genetic syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.
  • Diet: It is important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods and to limit your intake of high-fat foods.
  • Exercise: Getting enough exercise is also important.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women.
  • Alcohol: Avoiding too much alcohol may also help lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Long-time smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have and die from colorectal cancer.

To contact Southern Illinois University for additional information:

  • Cindy Davidsmeyer, Simmons Cancer Institute, 217-545-3837
  • Nancy Zimmers, SIU School of Medicine, 217-545-3854

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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