The University of Kentucky Rural Cancer Prevention Center has received a $3.75 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote colorectal cancer screening in central Appalachia.
This is the center's second five-year round of competitive federal funding; the first five years of the project focused on cervical cancer prevention.
Kentucky has the nation's highest rates of cancer incidence and death, and more people from Appalachian Kentucky die from colorectal cancer than those in other regions of the state. The grant was announced at a news conference Thursday.
Dr. Richard Crosby, director of the center, said at the news conference that the focus on colorectal cancer came from a community advisory board that includes relatives of cancer survivors and health care professionals.
"This is where we need to be focusing our attention: in the response to needs indicated by representatives of the community," Crosby said.
The UK prevention center is one of 26 CDC-financed Prevention Research Centers in the country and the only one focused on rural cancer prevention. Under the center's umbrella, residents, public health professionals and researchers conduct applied prevention research to reduce the health disparities associated with cervical cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer among residents of the Kentucky River Health District.
A lack of cancer screenings are a major problem in Eastern Kentucky, and as a result, cancers are often detected when they are harder to cure. With colorectal cancer, in particular, early diagnosis leads to much higher survival rates.
Sherry Payne, a colon cancer survivor and a member of the center's advisory board, said she's grateful for the project.
"While under treatment, I saw too many colon cancer patients passing away when they could have avoided late-stage cancer if they had participated in cancer screenings," Payne said.
Reporter Mary Meehan contributed to this report.