Can we get to 80% screening for colon cancer?

Getting a colonoscopy is no one’s favorite activity. Yet, I am reminded just how important getting a routine colonoscopy is when I see that colon cancer will kill an estimated 50,000 people in the U.S. this year. Here’s another critical fact: Colon cancer is one of only two cancers that can be completely prevented by screening.

Unfortunately, more than 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. aged 50 and older have not gone for a colorectal cancer screening, as recommended by the American Cancer Society. One of the largest reasons people might skip screenings are the related costs. Thankfully, that financial burden has been reduced for many Americans through public policies including the Affordable Care Act, which improves access by requiring most insurance plans to cover colorectal screening and to provide it at low or no cost to patients.

Still, too few people are getting screened, which is why the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), a national coalition of groups including the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN that are dedicated to reducing colorectal cancer incidence and mortality, have announced a major new initiative to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent by 2018. The groups are using the month of March to recruit additional partners that are dedicated to the goal and to raise public awareness of the preventable nature of this disease. We’re happy that President Obama is helping to raise awareness by issuing a proclamation naming March 2014 National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

What is it going to take to reach an 80 percent screening rate? Success will depend on several factors, an important one being advances in public policy.

To increase screening rates, ACS CAN is dedicated to fixing a loophole in Medicare that can create significant financial barriers to screening. Currently, patients with Medicare who receive a screening colonoscopy that also involves the removal of precancerous polyps can be responsible for the copay. This is because under Medicare coding rules, removal of any polyp reclassifies the “screening” as a therapeutic procedure.

ACS CAN is urging Congress to pass the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (H.R. 1070), which would correct this oversight and allow Medicare recipients to receive these important screenings without having to pay for the procedure. By removing this financial barrier, Congress would help increase screening rates and reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer.

We’re also working to ensure Congress fully funds CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP), which operates in 25 states and 4 tribes to promote colorectal cancer screenings and provide them to low-income and uninsured people. Since the program’s inception in 2009, it has provided screening to nearly 20,000 people, finding 2,917 cases of precancerous polyps and 50 cancers. This program can only continue with adequate funding from Congress, and ACS CAN is making sure that message is heard loud and clear.

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24 Comments
  • Posted by Katie  on April 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Along with removing barriers to screenings the age should be lowered for screenings with younger people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I am 33 years old and was just diagnosed.

  • Posted by cal orey  on March 27, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    In Europe this procedure is not done as much as here in the states. I’ve had two friends whom had terrible experiences during the prep. One had a heart attack; the other got very ill and had to repeat the ordeal. I have had so many false diagnoses (a lump on breast, ovary, cervical biopsy) they all were negative but the procedures were very stressful. If I have signs or problems during an exam, perhaps. But till then, no thank you. The risks outweigh the benefits…knowing me I’d freak and end up having a stroke. I am a healthy woman. My health insurance does pay for the procedure. But the invasive procedure is highly controversial for things that can go wrong.

  • Posted by Diane Stearns  on March 27, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    My Mother died of colon cancer at age 72. Her doctor, however, never mentioned ‘colon’ and called it liver cancer. Next, my oldest son died of colon cancer at age 41. I’ve been having polyps removed every three-to-five years since age 45. My youngest son is also having polyps removed since age 45. By all means, find a good Gastroenterologist and have a colonoscopy even sooner than age 50 if there is a history in your family. My grandchildren will begin having their first colonoscopy at age 30. Having this done really isn’t a big deal. Granted, the prep with Gatorade on the day before the procedure isn’t what you might call fun, but it certainly isn’t terrible. Once in the clinic, they put a warm blanket over you, intravenously inject a sedative and you’re off to dreamland. You awaken afterwards without any discomfort whatsoever and you’re good to go. You do have to bring a friend or relative with you to wait during the procedure and drive you home. As for age, I’m 76, so there you go….

  • Posted by Bob  on March 27, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I had a colonoscopy about 15 years ago and it was fine. I resisted having another and kept putting it off until a year ago. They found 5 large, non-cancerous (pre-cancerous) polyps and removed them. It seems to me now to be a matter of simple logic: If you are free of polyps, great. On the other hand, if you have frequent colonoscopies (every 3 years, or so) anything they may find probably won’t have had enough time to turn cancerous. Therefore, the very best way to avoid colon cancer is a periodic colonoscopy.

  • Posted by Sue  on March 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I had a colonoscopy 13 years ago. Part was on Katie Couric’s story. My life has been damaged since then.
    There was no advice on changing my diet, using probiotics, or other suggestions. My intestines were pierced.
    I spent a month and a half in intensive care. The doctor even apologized saying an area had been reached and it should have been stopped. The result is a continual battle of being able to eat. Not being able to gain weight as the food won’t stay. Trying to work and being afraid I would do something embarrassing at work. Low energy level.
    Relationships that changed. I count my blessings that I am still here today. It is one day at a time.

  • Posted by Helene  on March 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    When I turned 50, my doctor started bugging me to have a colonoscopy. I dreaded the thought of it so I told myself that I would only get one if I had to. At age 55 I noticed blood in my stool on several occasions so I figured it was time to have the test done. I had a tumor on my colon and had stage II colon cancer. Because I caught it early, I had the surgery and needed no further treatment. This summer it will be 5 years cancer free. I was lucky because I had a visible symptom. I recommend that everyone over 50 go for this test.

  • Posted by Anonymous  on March 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Last time I was scheduled for a colonoscopy I got deathly sick and began vomitting the prep liguid they tell you to take to clean yourself out I almost ended up in hospital from dehydration I couldn;t stop vomitting, we called the doctor who was suppose to do the colonoscopy explained situation and he told my husband to get me some gator aide with electolytes in it and potassium because I dangersously close to complete dehydration after this experience I have never made an appointment again for this test even though all types of cancer run in my family I am 62 yrs old but am deathly afraid I will have a repeat episode

  • Posted by Fran Carroll  on March 27, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    I had refused a colonoscopy many times. I insisted there was nothing wrong. Then I wanted to undergo bariatric surgery. Part of the presurgical program was to have a colonoscopy. The doctor showed me the polops in a jar. I don’t know how but at that point I just knew I had colon cancer. And then, I got a call saying the doctor wanted to see me.. I had colon cancer. I should have gone right to a cancer facility, but I stuck with this doctor. After about 7 months I became so ill I couldn’t stand it. Went to emergency care facility where an examination demanded I immediately get admitted into the hospital. The surgeon later admitted to me that my insides were a complete mess and I will have to wear a colostomy. My point is to encourage people to get regular colonoscopy done. And if there is a family member who have or had colon cancer, make sure you get colonscopies on a regular basis. If cancer shows up, go to a cancer facility and have qualified physicians formulate a plan especially for you.

  • Posted by Julie  on March 27, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    EVERYONE needs to get screened!! Don’t put it off! Last year I turned 50 & in Great Health. My Dr. Ordered a Colonoscopy & I so didn’t want to go!
    I did get my Screening done & they found a Large Polyp. Well, next thing I get a call from the Dr. I had Colon Cancer!!!!
    I had NO Symptoms & never had any issues. The Dr. told me I was very lucky that this screening was done probably saved my life!
    I had my Cancer Surgery, No Chemo or Radiation. I go back in this Monday for my first colonoscopy since my Surgery. Fingers Crossed it comes back good this time.

  • Posted by Christa Settle  on March 27, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    My last Colonoscopy was “murder”. The nurse didn’t give me enough fluid so that I didn’t feel any pain, and I thought
    I would die, it was horrendous. Afterwards, when I told the Dr., he said: “well, next time, I guess, we will give you a
    full anesthesia, not just a partial one. I thought he would have realized from my moaning, that I was in pain during
    the exam.

  • Posted by Cindy Gutterman  on March 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Nineteen years ago I wasn’t feeling the way I should My doctor did a colonoscopy. I was turning forty. They saw tons of polyps and my doctor then took specimens. The lab lost the specimens and my doctor insisted he knew what he saw and did another colonoscopy!!! He told me to get a second opinion and the second doctor told me to watch the polyps very closely. I went back to my original doctor who told me he knew what he saw and if I didn’t tend to it immediately my life span would be grossly shortened. He then came in on his own time and video taped my colon (I have the tape.)
    He also suggested i see Dr. Irwin Galernt (now deceased) at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York who had pioneered a new pull through surgery. When Dr. Galent viewed the tape he admitted to the hospital the next day for a complete colon removal. While he was operating he noticed my left ovary was also diseased. Well, it has been almost twenty years since my pull through surgery. I am here and I am healthy. I will see my daughter walk down the aisle this August. It is so important to be vigilant and if I didn’t have the right doctor I would not be here today. I have my good and bad days with the pull through but I exercise daily on the treadmill and bike and I love my life…….

  • Posted by concerned  on March 27, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I am currently having some symptoms that have me worried. I do not have health insurance and can not afford to pay for this procedure. Any suggestions?

    • Posted by Bruce Fontaine  on March 27, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Thats what Obma Care is al about. Get Obama Care and then go get a Colonoscopy. It may save your precious life.

    • Posted by Dwayne  on March 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      Go to the emergency room or get Obama Care Health Insurance

  • Posted by HELENE JAMMES  on March 27, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    HOW OFTEN SHOULD A WOMAN GET A COLORECTAL SCREENING. I HAVE HAD TWO AND THEY BOTH WERE FINE. DO I NEED TO GET ONE AT A FUTURE DATE???

  • Posted by suzycreamcheese  on March 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    can’t afford it

  • Posted by James Fishel  on March 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Tell my insurance, they think it is not worth it.( will not cover)

  • Posted by Sally  on March 27, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Money is what’s stopping me, with $5,000. deductable ins.

  • Posted by Ruth Bondo1@gmail.com  on March 27, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I have read that after 75 years old the colonoscopy is not safe for people .Read in aarp magazine

  • Posted by Joel Sandler  on March 27, 2014 at 7:41 am

    There is a much cheaper and effective way to detect colon cancer,

    • Posted by Jack Bingham  on March 27, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Please explainj

  • Posted by Mike Benge  on March 27, 2014 at 2:09 am

    I certainly support the screening, but it should not be a money generating event. A few years ago, it was done in a doctor’s office with a little morphine. Now it’s an outpatient surgery procedure with a team of medical professionals. No wonder health care is so expensive. Regardless-I don’t recommend having a ‘scope without some sort of medication. Or a couple of shots of something you like.

  • Posted by Adriana E Tamayo RN  on March 27, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Definitely get Colorectal Screening Act passed. I am paying the price for ignorance and denial. Now receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer stage 3 and I’m an RN.

  • Posted by Penny Mayer-Gargioni  on March 12, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    This is so important for every person, Was lucky to be an ACS/CAN member here in the state of Oregon and have helped support a bill to pass insurances to pay for colonoscopy and polyps with insurances paying for the removable and biopsy.

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