Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women nationwide, yet only half of people who need CRC screening receive it. The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute is working to educate patients about the importance of screening and to encourage everyone age 50 and older to get screened for CRC.
Recognizing that those without insurance have limited access to screening, gastroenterologists and physicians throughout the country have established free CRC screening programs for the uninsured. On National Colorectal Cancer Awareness and Screening Day (March 20, 2010), programs in ten states are holding simultaneous screening events on March 19 and 20, 2010, to check patients for this deadly cancer and raise awareness of the importance of screening.
"The AGA Institute firmly believes that all Americans should have access to life-saving colorectal cancer screenings. If caught early, colorectal cancer is very treatable," said Carla H. Ginsburg, MD, MPH, AGAF, chair of the AGA Institute Social Conscience Task Force. "The AGA applauds the physicians who are donating their time to screen patients who wouldn't otherwise be checked for colorectal cancer. We encourage all patients over age 50 to talk with their doctor about their colorectal cancer screening options."
There are a number of colorectal screening options, which vary by the extent of bowel preparation, as well as test performance, limitations, time interval and cost. The AGA considers colonoscopy the definitive test for CRC screening and prevention since it can detect cancer at an early, curable stage and prevent cancer by removing pre-cancerous polyps. For detailed information on CRC screening options, please see the AGA Institute brochure CRC Prevention and Treatment.
In addition to supporting grassroots efforts to screen patients without insurance, the AGA is hopeful that current provisions for CRC screening included in both the House and Senate health-care reform bills are included in the final bill. Both bills provide incentives for more individuals to get screened for CRC screenings and would provide a technical correction to the current Medicare CRC deductible and would waive the deductible regardless if a polyp or lesion is found.
AGA Institute President Gail A. Hecht, MD, MS, AGAF, said, "Legislation needs to be enacted that provides screening programs for the uninsured and medically underserved. Additionally, legislation should require that both public and private health insurers cover all recommended options for colorectal cancer screening for everyone aged 50 years and older, or 45 years and older for those at higher risk, with reasonable copayment."
In addition to following recommended screening guidelines, people can reduce their risk of developing or dying from CRC through regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight.
More than 20 gastroenterologists in the following states are conducting free colonoscopies on March 19 and 20:
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Information for patients about CRC
According to the American Cancer Society, CRC is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the U.S. and is the third leading cause of cancer death for men and women. CRC is preventable, treatable and beatable. It can be prevented by finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous, and is highly treatable if found in its early stages.
An estimated 146,970 cases of CRC occurred in 2009. CRC is the third most common cancer in both men and women. CRC incidence rates have been decreasing for most of the past two decades from 66.3 cases per 100,000 population in 1985 to 46.4 in 2005. The decline accelerated from 1998 to 2005 (2.8 percent per year in men and 2.2 percent per year in women), in part because of increases in screening that allow the detection and removal of colorectal polyps before they progress to cancer.
Approximately 49,920 deaths from CRC were expected to occur in 2009, accounting for almost 9 percent of all cancer deaths. Mortality rates for CRC have declined in both men and women over the past two decades, with a steeper decline since 2002 (4.3 percent per year from 2002 to 2005 in both men and women, compared to 2 percent per year from 1990 to 2002 in men and 1.8 percent per year from 1984 to 2002 in women). This decrease reflects declining incidence rates and improvements in early detection and treatment.
About the AGA Institute
The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. www.gastro.org.