Colorectal Cancer Screening & Treatment for the Uninsured

Support the CDC Colorectal Cancer Control Program

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cancer killer in the U.S. despite the knowledge that early detection and screening can save lives. An estimated 141,210 new cases of CRC will be diagnosed in 2011 and an estimated 49,380 people will die from this disease.1 The real tragedy is that many of these cancer cases and cancer deaths occur needlessly, as they could be prevented if more people were screened.

Screening Saves Lives

  • When CRC is diagnosed at the early localized stage, the five year survival rate is 90 percent.
  • When CRC is not diagnosed until the late distant stage, the five year survival rate is only 10 percent.
  • CRC can be prevented through the early identification and removal of pre-cancerous polyps detectable only through screenings.

It is critical, therefore, that barriers to screening be eliminated and that screening rates for the average-risk population (those individuals over the age of 50) be increased.

The AGA firmly believes that all Americans should have access to lifesaving CRC screenings. The AGA, the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and others recommend that all men and women at average risk for CRC get screened beginning at age 50. Patients should have the ability to consult with their doctor to choose one of several screening options that is best for them, including a screening colonoscopy every 10 years. This is the standard coverage that has been adopted by most Federal Employees Health Benefit Plans (FEHBP), Medicare and has also been mandated for private insurers as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Barriers to Screenings Still Exist

Despite the fact that CRC screenings have proven to reduce cancer mortality, according to a report in the July 2008 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, only half of men and women in the U.S. are screened. This problem is made worse for people who lack health insurance or whose health plan does not cover screenings. According to the CDC, among the uninsured population, only 24 percent of individuals are screened for CRC compared with 50 percent who are insured. Additionally, barriers to screening still exist among racial and ethnic lines with African Americans and Hispanics being more likely to lack health insurance, thus less likely to be screened. Although the new health-care law mandates screening and eliminates cost-sharing for patients, it will take time for this new benefit to be utilized. Our experience with the Medicare benefit shows that despite a screening benefit, individuals still need to be educated about the importance of screening, and there is a segment of the population that will still not be screened.

With 80 million baby boomers set to retire, our nation must increase its commitment to prevention and screening. Since the risk for CRC increases with age — with 91 percent of new cases occurring in individuals over age 50 — treatment costs for this disease will continue to put a strain on our nation’s health-care costs and on the Medicare program. We could save countless lives and reduce treatment costs if more Americans were screened at age 50.

AGA Supports the CDC Colorectal Cancer Control Program

The AGA supports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Colorectal Cancer Control Program, which was launched in 22 states and four tribal organizations throughout the U.S. for five years. The program’s goal is to increase screening rates among individuals over 50 years of age from 64 percent to 80 percent by 2014. The program has two components to help increase screening — education and screening.

Local colorectal cancer control programs tailor educational outreach and screening promotion efforts to meet the needs of the community to increase screening. Additionally, the screening component targets low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals aged 50 to 64 years. States that currently participate include:

  • Alabama
  • Minnesota
  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • California
  • Nebraska
  • Colorado
  • New Hampshire
  • Connecticut
  • New Mexico
  • Delaware
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Oregon
  • Iowa
  • Pennsylvania
  • Maine
  • South Dakota
  • Maryland
  • Utah
  • Massachusetts
  • Washington

Tribal organizations include:

  • Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
  • Arctic Slope Native Association.
  • South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency.
  • Southcentral Foundation.

This program is essential to our efforts to increase screening and save lives. The AGA is requesting that Congress continue to support the CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program by funding the program at $70 million in FY 2012.

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2011.