FluFIT for Fall

What do flu shots and colorectal screening tests have in common? According to Montana Cancer Control Specialist Karen Grindeland, they have more in common than you may imagine!

“Flu shot season is a time for prevention. FluFIT events cover two important priorities for preventative health at the same time,” says Grindeland.

The Cascade City County Health Department (CCHD) is teaming up with the Community Health Care Center (CHCC) to hold its second annual FluFit event on November 16th  from 8am-5pm. During this unique event, when patients come in for their annual flu shot, individuals ages 50-75 will also be offered a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit. FIT kits are a tool used to screen for colon cancer that can be completed in the comfort of one’s home.

Cancer was the leading cause of death among Montana residents between 2009-2013 and Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Early detection and screening efforts save lives. FIT kits and other colorectal cancer screening tools can find precancerous polyps – abnormal growths in the colon or rectum – so that they can be removed before turning into cancer.

“FIT kits are great because they are convenient! They are an easy, at-home test that requires no medicinal or dietary restrictions to complete,” says Darcey Johannsen, CCHD Community Outreach Specialist.

flu-fitfor-fall-1The CDC recommends individuals get screened for Colorectal cancer beginning at age 50. Recommended screening test intervals are:

  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): checks for hidden blood in the stool. Positive tests are followed with a colonoscopy. If negative, annual FIT kits are recommended for those with average risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: physicians use a flexible, lighted tube (sigmoidoscope) to look at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon; should be done every five years with FIT every three years.
  • Colonoscopy: physicians use a flexible, lighted tube (colonoscope) to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon; should be done every 10 years. During this procedure, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination, or polyps may be removed. Colonoscopies can be used as screening tests or as follow-up diagnostic tools when the results of another screening test are positive.

Recommended screening intervals aren’t always followed,” says Johannsen. “Some think because they don’t have family history of colorectal cancer, they aren’t at risk and don’t need to get screened. Others think these screenings are for those who have symptoms or have concerns about the cost of tests. Events like the FluFIT make it easy and affordable for individuals to receive accurate screening information,” she continues.

The Cascade City County Health Department and Community Health Care Center are part of thousands of organizations working to reduce colorectal cancer as a major public health problem. The efforts include a shared goal of reaching 80% of adults aged 50 and older to get screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

In 2015, CCHD and CHCC held two FluFit events. 86% of FIT kits distributed were returned, 21% of returned tests showed abnormal results. Those patients were then referred for additional screening.

“Partnering with the Community Health Care Center during flu season is a perfect time for patients to receive provider recommended testing for colorectal cancer screening.  Patient compliance is increased because they are receiving provider recommendation and education about screening guidelines and early detection,” says Grindeland.

The FluFIT event on November 16th is provided for established Community Health Center patients. If individuals are not CHCC patients and are interested in learning more about FIT kits or other Colorectal Screening options, they are encouraged to speak with their primary care physician or call Karen Grindeland at 791-9272 or Darcey Johannsen at 791-9279.