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In Your Community: Sage Scopes

By Amy Wenzel, Get Your Rear in Gear contributor

SageScopes-logoSage Scopes is Minnesota’s Colorectal Cancer Program that is funded with money from CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program. Additionally, the Colon Cancer Coalition/Get Your Rear in Gear provides funding from money raised at the Twin Cities event to help pay for treatment for Sage Scopes patients that are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Thanks in part to Get Your Rear in Gear funding from the 2010 event, Sage Scopes was able to continue treating patients during the 20-day Minnesota State government shutdown in July 2011.

Roughly 70% of Sage Scopes’ budget goes toward promoting colorectal cancer screening in the general population and to provide free screening services to eligible Minnesotans. In order to be eligible for Sage Scopes’ free screening program, an individual must be:

  • a Minnesota resident
  • age 50-64 or in a group with higher risk for colorectal cancer
  • uninsured or underinsured
  • low income (as per federally determined guidelines)

Sage Scopes began screening patients in April 2010 and currently screens patients at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and Regions Hospital in St. Paul. “Sage Scopes is one of several programs offered through the Minnesota Department of Health that provide direct services aimed at helping medically underserved Minnesotans stay healthy,” explains Sage Scopes Program Director, Anne Kukowski. “By raising awareness of colorectal cancer, educating people to understand that it can be prevented, and increasing screening rates, we hope to reduce deaths from this preventable disease.”

As of July 22, 2011, 504 patients had received colonoscopies through Sage Scopes. Of these patients, 44% had adenomatous polyps, or non-cancerous polyps that left undetected are at risk of becoming cancerous. Of the 504 patients, two were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. “Get Your Rear in Gear stepped in to help defray the costs of treatment for those Sage Scopes patients who are found to have colorectal cancer,” says Kukowski. The Get Your Rear in Gear grant funds were used to cover treatment costs for the first cancer patient until the high-deductible for his insurance was met and his insurance assumed the cost of treatment.

“Several health systems have offered and continue to offer free colonoscopy clinics on an ad hoc basis, but Sage Scopes makes free colonoscopies available to underserved individuals on an ongoing basis,” continued Kukowski. By ensuring that all possible sources of coverage are identified and used allows Sage Scopes to guarantee that Get Your Rear in Gear grant funds will be available to help cover treatment for future patients who have no other options.