FARMINGTON — The Maine Cancer Foundation recently awarded the Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County a $10,000 grant to provide community education on cancer prevention and early detection.

The effort focuses on colorectal and prostate cancers. 

Screening rates in Franklin County for these are lower than the state average.  This results in significantly higher colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates than the rest of the state, according to Jennifer McCormack, executive director of the Healthy Community Coalition.

There appears to be a variety of reasons why fewer people in Franklin County have preventive testing done, Cheryl Moody of the coalition staff said. From talking with local residents, she’s found some are not interested, others lack insurance or a doctor, so they haven’t gone for regular check-ups, she said.

With help from the grant, Moody will begin traveling around the county, talking with residents, providing education and encouraging them to undergo testing.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” she said. Some of her family members survived cancer but had to undergo extensive treatment because they were not having the tests done in a timely manner, she said.

During colonoscopies, if there’s a precancerous growth it can be taken care of then.  If it’s not detected, it can lead to a tumor, major surgery and an extended period of recovery, she said.

Recommendations are for men and women to have their first colonoscopy at age 50 and men to have their first prostate check at age 50, unless there is a family history or factors that require an earlier check, she said.  It’s all individual and dependent on decisions made by the patient and doctor.

Re-checks are also individual; some people are fine without a check for 10 years, others are rechecked in five years, she said.

Along with encouraging preventive cancer testing, Moody will also talk to people about having regular check-ups, making a connection with a doctor if they don’t have one and eating a healthy diet. 

Eating fruits and vegetables in recommended amounts is one cancer prevention strategy, she said.

Moody has started attending public functions, including the recent Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s Home and Leisure Show and local Warming Centers.

The coalition’s mobile health unit is coming out of winter storage, and dates are being set for staff to visit towns around Franklin County. Coalition staff will man the unit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 at Walmart.

The funding will also support public service announcements, advertising and a public announcement at Narrow Gauge Cinema, she said.

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