March 5, 2014
National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States and a cause of considerable suffering among the 137,000 adults diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. In 2010, over 52,000 Americans died from this cancer;1 however, when colorectal cancer is detected early, illness and death can be prevented. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is committed to boosting public awareness about the importance of screening and treatment for colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer poses the greatest risk to adults over the age of 50, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all individuals aged 50-75 be screened for colorectal cancer as part of routine preventive health care. Currently, about 1 in 3 adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are not receiving recommended screening. These are most likely to be Hispanics, those aged 50-64, men, American Indian or Alaska natives, those who don’t live in a city, and people with lower education and income.
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a major barrier to regular screening—cost of access to preventive care—has been removed. For the first time in our nation’s history, many Americans can receive without cost sharing high value preventive services, such as screening for colorectal cancer and other diseases that threaten health and shorten lives.
Colorectal cancer and death from this disease can be prevented thanks to effective screening tools. Many people do not realize that three tests—colonoscopy, highly sensitive stool tests (FOBT, fecal occult blood test, or FIT, fecal immunochemical test) and flexible sigmoidoscopy— are all effective at finding cancer early, and the best test is the test that gets done.
In summary, colorectal cancer screening has been proven to save lives. We are committed to eliminating colorectal cancer as a major public health problem. Increasing the nation’s screening rate to 80 percent by the year 2018 is absolutely possible, but there is much work to be done, especially in communities where those without insurance can’t regularly access the health care system. We need greater national efforts to inform and remind appropriate patients that they are due for colorectal cancer screening, and ensure that all Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 receive this important life-saving intervention.