CCPP Founder Whitney Jones

Why Kentucky's Colon Cancer Screening Program should be funded

Below is the testimony Dr. Whitney Jones presented at the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare meeting on Nov. 16, 2011 in Frankfort, Ky.:

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Dr. Whitney Jones, founder of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, at the March 2012 rally

 Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Whitney Jones, a Louisville gastroenterologist and the founder of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, a non-profit working across Kentucky to eliminate preventable colon cancer death and suffering. I’m also a member and past chairman of the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program Advisory Committee, a group the General Assembly formed in 2008. Today, I also represent its members.   

Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I am here because Kentucky is losing ground in its fight against colon cancer, and you have a chance to change that through BR 275, which would fund the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program.  (KRS 214.542)

Colon cancer is the number one cause of cancer death among non-smokers in the U.S. Each year, 150,000 people across the country are diagnosed with this disease, and another 50,000 people die from it.

Kentucky is one of the top 5 WORST states in the country for colon cancer mortality. At any one time, more than 10,000 Kentuckians are battling colon cancer to make it to their 5 year survivor date – around 2,700 will be diagnosed this year alone. More than 800 will die each year. 

More people in Kentucky die each and every year from colon cancer than from breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis COMBINED.

Even more, my hometown of Louisville holds the title of fourth worst metropolitan city for colon cancer deaths.

Since the first time I testified before you in 2008, 2,700 people have died from colon cancer, and another 7,500 people have been diagnosed.

Colon cancer deaths are 90 percent preventable when the cancer is caught early through screening. Sadly, far too many times colon cancer is caught in the late stages because many people are uninsured or under-insured and don’t have the means to pay for this preventable measure.   

These statistics I’ve presented today are grim, but it’s also important to note that even without funding, Kentucky has made strides in screening. We now see 480 fewer people each year being diagnosed with colon cancer. That translates to $35 to $40 million in direct treatment cost savings. Also, since 2001, Kentucky has soared from the worst state in the U.S. for colon cancer screening rates to 32nd. At one point, Kentucky ranked 23rd, but that dropped as other states began implementing and funding their own screening programs.

We have gone as far as we can without funding.

In April 2008, HB 415 passed unanimously, creating the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program. Three years later, the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program remains unfunded.

By funding this program, the hardworking and committed staff of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and local health departments can make education, prevention and early detection of colon cancer a priority. The Program will educate all Kentuckians about the importance of prevention and early detection, as well as provide many uninsured Kentuckians access to colon cancer screenings.

Reps. Jim Glenn and Bob DeWeese have filed a bill that appropriates $8 million over the next two fiscal years for the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program. Passing this bill is the wise thing to do for the health of Kentuckians. It’s also fiscally responsible, allowing this state to save millions of dollars in treatment costs.

The Screening Program is ready. We have a budget in place and a manual to guide us.

Now, we need the funding.

I respectfully ask that you support Bill 275 to provide the money to implement the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program.  Simply put, colon cancer screening saves lives and saves money.  An investment by the General Assembly over the biennium to fund this Program is the right move for the Commonwealth now. 

On behalf of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project and our supporters here with us today and here in spirit from across the state, thank you for your time.

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