The Iowa Department of Public Health has landed a five-year, four-point-four million dollar grant from the CDC to boost colorectal cancer screenings.

Jeanna Jones, the agency’s screening promotions coordinator, says too few Iowans are being screened for colon cancer, which is often preventable by getting screened. “Our screening rates are in the low 70s, so maybe around 71 or 72%,” Jones says. “We actually had the goal of getting Iowa’s screening rates up to about 80% by the year 2018 and we weren’t able to meet that goal.”

With the grant, the state health department aims to increase colorectal cancer screenings at ten of Iowa’s federally qualified health centers to 60% by 2025. Those ten centers — in rural and urban areas of the state — all have screening rates below 60%.
“Federally qualified health centers tend to have lower colorectal cancer screening rates just because the population is more uninsured, underinsured,” Jones says. “We’re just trying to work with those health centers so that we can help provide any barrier assistance, transportation, help to the patients to get them screened.”

She says seven out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer had no signs or symptoms, but if detected early, it can be 90% treatable. “People don’t realize that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in Iowa, however, it’s one of the few cancers that you can actually prevent by getting screened,” Jones says. “A lot of people just think that they have to do a colonoscopy in order to get screened but we really try to promote that there are multiple screening options.”

The ten centers are: All Care Health Center in Council Bluffs; Community Health Care, based in Davenport; Community Health Center of Fort Dodge; Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa; Community Health Centers of Southeastern Iowa; Crescent Community Health Center; Eastern Iowa Health Center; Primary Health Care in Ames; Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center; and River Hills Community Health Center, based in Ottumwa.