‘We will save lives’: Donors gift $175K for colorectal cancer screenings in West Virginia

The West Virginia University Cancer Institute has received a $175,000 donation to support affordable colorectal cancer screenings within the state, the university announced this week.

The institute was gifted the money as part of the Barbara Northeimer Fish Memorial Cancer Fund, a release stated, which will provide screening opportunities for uninsured West Virginians between 50 and 75 years old. The pilot program will use stool-DNA testing to detect colorectal cancers, as well as pre-cancerous polyps, before they become deadly.

Bob Fish said he set up the fund after his wife passed from the same disease.

“Barbara and Bob Fish’s years together ended when she passed away from metastatic colorectal cancer,” Richard Goldberg, MD, the director of the WVU cancer institute, said in the release. “One way that Bob has dedicated himself to Barbara’s memory is his support of the WVU Cancer Institute’s research. Like us, he recognizes that early detection maximizes the chance of cure and diagnosis as stage IV, the most advanced stage, seldom permits curative treatment.”

The money could make a big difference in West Virginia, where the uninsured rate has reached 6 percent, Goldberg said. The funding will cover not only initial screenings but follow-up diagnostic colonoscopies when appropriate.

“Through this program, we will teach West Virginians about why to do screening, the availability and ease of many screening options, and we will save lives,” Goldberg said. “What a great legacy to celebrate Barbara’s life as an educator and prevent other from having to endure living with and ultimately dying from a disease we can cure through early detection.”

The screening program is scheduled to launch this fall, he said.

“Even though colon cancer is treatable if found early, it remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in West Virginia,” Robert Fish said in the release. “It is our hope this program will lead to a significant and sustainable increase in early detection and successful treatment among uninsured West Virginians.”