Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

A Blog From the ACS CAN President

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Guest Post: Closing the Colorectal Cancer Screening Loophole

October 17, 2017

I'm delighted that NASCAR driver Scott Lagasse Jr has agreed to share his personal cancer story on my blog. He is a very talented and inspirational individual, who can help make a difference in our battle against a lethal disease. In so doing, he can highlight the importance of cancer awareness.

As a professional athlete, I’m used to being in peak physical shape. In 2014, I was probably in the best shape of my life and was training 15 hours a week for a triathlon. I was also a newlywed who just bought a new home. Life was good. I truly felt like I was invincible.  The only problem was this nagging pressure in my stomach. At first I tried to ignore it, then I started modifying my workouts to avoid the pain and keep training. Finally, it became unbearable and I went to the doctor.

I was referred to a gastroenterologist who recommended I get a colonoscopy. I was not excited to hear this. I was only 33, why would I need a colonoscopy. Such screenings are recommended for people 50 and older. Still, I listened to the doctor and got the test.  Good thing I did because the test discovered colon cancer. In an instant, my world was forever changed.

After an initial period of disbelief—this can’t be right, surely, it’s a mistake—I started asking myself tough questions like how will everyone manage without me? How can I get through this? What will this mean for my wife and my future? What I did not mention earlier was that my wife was 6 months pregnant with our little girl, Emelia. I couldn’t imagine not getting to know her. I soon realized I needed to channel this anxiety into something more productive and reflective of my competitive nature. I was going to beat this. Along with the support of family and friends I would come out ahead; that determination is what got me through surgery and on the road to recovery.

What I learned along the way is that if cancer can catch me at 200 miles per hour, then it can catch anyone. I was glad I listened to my body and took the necessary steps that saved my life. Had I ignored things longer or been unable to access or afford the colon cancer screening who knows how my story may have turned out.

While I am younger than most colon cancer patients, I understand the importance of colonoscopies as a potentially life-saving preventive screening, especially for those 50 and older who are most at risk. That’s why I am working to support ACS CAN’s efforts to remove cost-sharing barriers that prevent older Americans on Medicare from accessing their doctor-recommended colonoscopy. Congress should take quick action and eliminate these surprise costs and ensure seniors have the same access to colorectal cancer screening as those of us with private insurance have.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men and women, yet it is the only cancer that is entirely preventable if a polyp is caught and removed early.  If everyone over the age of 50 received recommended colon cancer screenings, we could prevent half of all colorectal cancer deaths.  The last thing we should be doing is making it more expensive or difficult for people to get the care they need.

As a survivor, I’m dedicated to making sure I do everything I can to maintain my own health and making sure others have the ability to be healthy too.  Congress isn’t known for its speed, but in this case, they should race to pass this legislation.