2010-04-20 03:39:08 UTC

Economy Could Reduce Colorectal Cancer Screening Rate

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

 

Bethesda, MD (Feb. 24, 2009) – Even in the best economic environment, only half of the people who need colorectal cancer screening receive the life-saving test. Those without health insurance or with limited coverage that does not include colorectal cancer screenings are even less likely to be screened. During March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is working to raise awareness of how the economy could negatively impact cancer screening. A bill in Congress could help bridge the gap.

“The mortality rate of colorectal cancer continues to decline but remains the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.,” said Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF, president of the AGA Institute. “Colon cancer death is largely preventable through screening, which can detect disease in an early, curable stage. Screening with colonoscopy can also prevent cancers by removing precancerous polyps. Unfortunately, most people at risk are never screened. We need to reverse that trend.”

Due to the worsening economy, many people are losing health insurance or are faced with higher premiums and are forgoing preventive screening, including for colorectal cancer. 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. These individuals have a higher death rate due to more advanced disease at diagnosis.

The AGA firmly believes that all Americans should have access to lifesaving colorectal cancer screenings. Average risk patients should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 50. The AGA is working with our advocates in Congress and coalition partners to ensure patients have the ability to consult with their doctors to choose the screening options that are best for them.

AGA Supports Creation of CRC Screening Program at CDC

Rep. Kay Granger, R-TX, plans to reintroduce legislation this month that she authored in the 110th Congress, the Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act, which would establish a life-saving program to fight colorectal cancer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) similar to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. The bill would establish a program to provide colorectal cancer screenings and treatment for individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 or those high-risk individuals under age 50. Additionally, the bill would prioritize screening and treatment for low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals, as well as ensure the full continuum of care for individuals screened, including appropriate follow-up, diagnostic and therapeutic services, and treatment for detected cancers.

The AGA supports the Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act and believes it will not only prevent more cases of colorectal cancer, but also lead to cost savings for Medicare and our health-care system. We urge Congress to enact this legislation. To show support for this bill, visit the AGA advocacy page at http://capwiz.com/gastro/home/ to contact local legislators.

AGA Members Give Back

Around the country, AGA members are giving back to their communities by offering free colonoscopies to uninsured and underinsured Americans. In Massachusetts, the AGA Institute is collaborating with the New England chapter of the American Cancer Society and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to host the first Massachusetts Free Colonoscopy Day. Nine medical centers in and around Boston are participating to provide free colonoscopies to low income uninsured adults age 50 and over identified by the Department of Public Health Women’s Health Network and Men’s Health Partnership.

About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer screening is a public health issue – approximately 50 percent of people of screening age are screened. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S. In 2008 more than 148,000 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S. and nearly 50,000 people died of the disease. Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are highest in African American men and women with incidence rates that are more than 20 percent higher and mortality rates about 45 percent higher than those in whites. Among Hispanic men and women, colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are 20 percent to 30 percent lower than those among non-Hispanic whites. However, the rates among Hispanics in the U.S. are higher than in Spanish speaking countries in South and Central America.

Visit www.gastro.org/patient for more information about colorectal cancer and how to prepare for a colonoscopy.

About the AGA Institute

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is dedicated to the mission of advancing the science and practice of gastroenterology. Founded in 1897, the AGA is one of the oldest medical-specialty societies in the U.S. Comprised of two non-profit organizations—the AGA and the AGA Institute—our more than 17,000 members include physicians and scientists who research, diagnose and treat disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. The AGA, a 501(c6) organization, administers all membership and public policy activities, while the AGA Institute, a 501(c3) organization, runs the organization’s practice, research and educational programs. On a monthly basis, the AGA Institute publishes two highly respected journals, Gastroenterology and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The organization's annual meeting is Digestive Disease Week®, which is held each May and is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. For more information, please visit www.gastro.org.

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