Physicians warn too few
Americans getting screened for colon cancer
With screening and early
detection, colon cancer can be prevented, but experts from the
American College of Gastroenterology warn that too few Americans are
“We know that colon cancer screening saves lives.
Yet colorectal screening rates remain very low even though Medicare
and many private plans pay for screening tests,” explains Dr. Jack DiPalma, President of the American College of Gastroenterology.
Despite increasing public
awareness of colorectal screening tests through the efforts of Katie
Couric and others, many people continue to face obstacles to
screening. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in 2002
estimated that only 41 percent of men and women over 50 had
recommended screening tests in the last five years, specifically
colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. (Source: CDC’s Behavioral
Risk Factor Surveillance System 2002)
Even Medicare beneficiaries, for
whom incidence and death from the disease are highest, encounter
problems with access to screening colonoscopy. "Pending legislation
in the U.S. Congress, such as the Colon Cancer Screen for Life Act
(S.1010/H.R. 1632), promises to remove Medicare’s barriers to
screening, but only one small improvement, the waiver of the
Medicare deductible, was approved for 2006, so much remains to be
done," adds Dr. DiPalma.
According to the American Cancer
Society, an estimated 148,000 Americans, both women and men, are
diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and this year
approximately 55,000 people will die from this disease. However,
many of these deaths could be prevented through proper screening.
Research indicates that colon cancer arises from pre-cancerous
growths or polyps that grow in the colon. When detected early, these
growths or polyps can be removed, actually preventing the
development of colon cancer.
About Colorectal Cancer
Screening – Recommendations from the American College of
For normal risk individuals, the
American College of Gastroenterology recommends colonoscopy
screening every 10 years beginning at age 50. An alternative
strategy for average risk individuals is an annual stool test for
blood, and a flexible sigmoidoscopic exam every 5 years, although
unlike colonoscopy this approach does not allow visualization and
removal of polyps in the entire colon.
For those with a family history of
colorectal cancer, testing should begin at 40 years of age or 10
years younger than the age of the youngest affected relative,
whichever is earlier.
For both average and high risk
individuals, all potential pre-cancerous polyps must be removed.
Earlier Screening Recommended for
African Americans Begin at Age 45
African Americans are diagnosed
with colorectal cancer at a younger age than whites, and African
Americans with colorectal cancer have decreased survival compared
Physician experts from the American College of
Gastroenterology last year issued new recommendations to healthcare
providers to begin colorectal cancer screening in African Americans
at age 45 rather than 50 years.
Colonoscopy is the preferred method
of screening for colorectal cancer and data support the
recommendation that African-Americans begin screening at a younger
age because of the high incidence of colorectal cancer and a greater
prevalence of proximal or right-sided polyps and cancerous lesions
in this population. The recommendations were published in the March
2005 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
State level statistics on
colorectal cancer incidence and mortality are available from the
American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org)