Cancer Prevention, Education, Screening, and Treatment Program Saves Lives

The Garrett County Health Department has a program that can help individuals with the cost of screening and treatment of certain cancers. The Cancer Prevention, Education, Screening, and Treatment Program (CPEST) can assist with prevention and different parts of a cancer patients’ journey.

To qualify for assistance, patients must be a Garrett County resident and meet the income requirements, which is 250% of the federal poverty level. Qualifying individuals may be insured or uninsured. For insured patients, the program will cover the cost of any co-pays, co-insurance, and/or deductibles. Clients enrolled for screening must be at least 45 years old, or, have certain risk factors or be having symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, blood in stools, abdominal pain, or unexplained weight loss.

Clients are usually referred to CPEST by their health care provider, or they hear about the program and call for assistance. Our staff determines if they qualify for the program and completes the enrollment over the phone, mailing the necessary paperwork, or clients are able to come to the office to complete the paperwork.

Clients have a choice of colonoscopy providers, depending on who is under contract with the program at that time. The GCHD CPEST Program currently has contracts with Dr. Charles Walch, Dr. Lynda Dougherty, Dr. Jonathan Tannenbaum, and Dr. Milagros Lopez-Gerena. Funding provided by the Cigarette Restitution Fund pays for the following costs: pre-op visits and testing if needed; the colonoscopy prep; the hospital, doctor, and anesthesia fees; pathology if biopsies are taken; and any necessary follow-up visits.

The timing of follow-up colonoscopies depends on several things, including the result of the original colonoscopy, personal and/or family medical history, or if new symptoms develop. These factors may require a person to have their next colonoscopy earlier than others. The CPEST program follows the current recommendations and will cover colonoscopies according to those guidelines.

Since the risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age, regular colorectal cancer screening should begin at age 45, and even younger depending on certain risk factors.

Colonoscopy screening is the most effective screening method we have for prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer. Symptoms are not always present with colon polyps or early colon cancer. Most colorectal cancers start out as a polyp, which can easily be removed during a colonoscopy, preventing cancer in the first place. In addition, a colonoscopy can detect colorectal cancer early, when treatment is much more effective.

“The Garrett County Health Department Cancer Screening Program would love to be able to help you and your loved ones get on the right track with the recommended cancer screenings,” said Autumn Friend, RN. “Something so simple, and free, could be what prevents you from battling cancer.”

For more information call Autumn Friend at the Garrett County Health Department at 301-334-7770 or 301-895-3111.