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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

West Side Hospital Offers Free Colon Cancer Screenings, Pap Smears For Uninsured Residents

The free health screenings are available for West Siders who are uninsured and underinsured throughout March.

Chicago's first COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, at Loretto Hospital, a 122-bed medical facility in the Austin neighborhood.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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AUSTIN —  West Side residents can get free screenings for colon cancer and cervical health throughout March.

Loretto Hospital is offering free pap smears and gastrointestinal screenings for residents of Austin and surrounding neighborhoods regardless of insurance status.

Residents who qualify can schedule same-day appointments for the tests. To schedule a screening, call 833-854-5683 or go to the hospital’s website.

Gastrointestinal screenings can identify polyps in the digestive system before they become cancerous. Colon cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so catching colon disease early can be lifesaving.

“Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer when caught early,” said Dr. Ilysa Diamond, a gastroenterologist at Loretto. “It’s more important than ever that everyone has access to and is receiving recommended screenings, regardless of race or insurance status.”

Screenings can also help close health gaps since Black people are 20 percent more likely to get colon cancer and 40 percent more likely to die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Loretto Hospital will host a community education event in recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 4:30 p.m. Monday. Diamond will lead a conversation about colon health and disease prevention. The virtual event will be streamed on Loretto’s Facebook page.

The medical center’s free pap smears are aimed at helping women be proactive about their cervical health. The screening can identify cervical cancer and can find abnormalities that can become cancerous in the future.

Cervical health screenings can also help doctors identify endometriosis, a painful condition that can lead to infertility. Endometriosis is estimated to affect about 10 percent of women, according to the state’s public health department.

“We are dedicated to providing the community with the preventative steps needed to take control of their health, like pap smears,” said Dr. Lois Clarke, director of clinical research at Loretto Hospital. “Starting an honest dialogue with your physician is the first step to ensuring your heath for years to come.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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