ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — March is National Kidney Month. According to the CDC, one out of every seven people is estimated to have chronic kidney disease, and each year around 68,000 people are diagnosed with kidney or pelvis cancers.

Kimberly McGee works with the Northwest Arkansas (AR) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. It’s a community service organization. One of the key programs is called Black K.A.R.E. This month, the program will be raising awareness of the importance of kidney health.

McGee has personally dealt with kidney health issues. In April, she will be a seven-year kidney cancer survivor. She said many people don’t have early symptoms of kidney illnesses.

“It was a diagnosis that came by surprise. It was actually during another doctor’s appointment where it was discovered,” McGee said.

Dr. Bala Simon, the deputy chief medical officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, said there is no screening test for kidney cancer, and many people are diagnosed after the cancer has spread. He said prevention is key, doing things like eating healthier, staying active, and avoiding smoking.

Dr. Simon said chronic kidney disease is a much larger concern. In Arkansas, there are over 700 deaths yearly due to kidney disease, and over 70,000 people are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease each year.

He added that the disease can become costly in later stages. The average cost for dialysis per year is close to $50,000.

A concern for Simon is that the disease is starting to impact people at younger ages. He said this is due to more people developing diabetes and high blood pressure at younger ages. Kidney disease normally develops 10 years from the time of diagnosis of one of those two illnesses.

While kidney cancer isn’t screened, kidney disease can be screened. Dr. Simon strongly encourages everyone to do so frequently if they’re more at risk.

“Early screening and testing and detection of chronic kidney disease can help prevent the kidneys going into kidney failure and needing dialysis or a transplant,” Simon said.

Black K.A.R.E. specifically raises awareness in Black American communities, which are disproportionately impacted by kidney disease. According to the CDC, nearly 17% of those with chronic kidney disease are Black Americans, while around 13% are White Americans and Asian Americans. Around 14% are Hispanic.

Northwest Arkansas (AR) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated will host its awareness event Saturday, April 1 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at St. James Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

The event is free to the public. You can register here.