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A local doctor is working to arrange free colonoscopies for those in need.

Chad Kawa, a gastroenterologist with Revere Health in Provo, coordinated free screening colonoscopies to eligible locals during the last week of March.

“Even if you have cancer, the hope is we detect somebody in an earlier stage,” Kawa said.

More than 90 percent of colon and rectal cancers are in people over the age of 50, according to Fight Colorectal Cancer, but about a third of people in that age group aren’t being screened for colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in Utah, and colonoscopies are recommended for people 50 years or older.

Kawa was trained in Cleveland, where he got the idea for the project from a free screening day held there.

He decided to do a week here during March, which is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

The gastroenterologists with Revere Health are performing the colonoscopy screenings, while facilities and support were donated by Intermountain Healthcare. Kawa worked with Community Health Connect and Mountainlands Community Health Center to find the low income, uninsured and underinsured patients.

Braintree Laboratories provided free SUPREP Bowel Prep Kits and Utah Valley Hospital pathologists donated services to examine any polyps that might be discovered. Revere Health will also partner with patients if they need follow-up care.

Each doctor has two or three patients scheduled for the week. Kawa estimates between 15 and 20 patients will receive colonoscopies during the week.

About 30 percent of patients will have a polyp, a small growth inside the colon, that could turn into cancer, making it likely one will be found in at least one of the patients.

Kawa said often, insurance companies will call patients to remind them to get a colonoscopy. For uninsured patients who can’t afford the procedure, it’s likely they’ll push it off.

Next year, Kawa would like to expand the initiative to longer than a week and find more patients.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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