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CDC Vital Signs Report: Colon Cancer Alliance Reponds

Posted on November 12, 2013

The recent report that colon cancer screening rates may be leveling off is making its way across the Internet.  We sat down with Stephanie Guiffre, Strategic Alliance and Initiatives Director for the Colon Cancer Alliance and one of the founders of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, to get her take on the issue. 

Stephanie Guiffre, Colon Cancer Alliance Strategic Alliance and Initiatives Director and one of the founders of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Stephanie Guiffre, Colon Cancer Alliance Strategic Alliance and Initiatives Director and a founder of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The headline we’ve all been seeing comes from the CDC’s monthly Vital Signs report and includes the following quote:

“Approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population aged 50–75 years were up-to-date with CRC screening in 2012. Previous studies suggest CRC screening rates are increasing less rapidly than in the past.”

The percentage of the population up-to-date with recommended colon cancer screening has increased from 54% in 2002 to 65% in 2010. From this study, it seems that the current rate has remained at the 2010 level – just 65.1%.

This stat is alarming, and stresses why we need to be thinking of new ways to frame the message that screening saves lives. We can’t rely solely on the awareness message any more.

Moving Beyond Awareness: What’s Next

Back in early 2000, nobody was talking about colon cancer screening. Medicare had just begun covering colonoscopies and the Colon Cancer Alliance was barely a year old and still struggling to gain momentum.

People didn’t know about this disease, and that’s why I was proud to spearhead the effort to get President Clinton declare March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

This CDC report is telling me that awareness alone is no longer enough. We’re seeing that nearly 80% of people know they need to get screened, yet, 23 million still aren’t. Awareness isn’t going to make up the screening gap. We need to start asking what it will take to get people to take that next step and schedule their test.

To me, the answer lies in a two-fold process.

The first step is getting doctors to talk to their patients about getting a screening test. In the same report, the CDC said the number one reason people did not get screened is because their doctor didn’t recommend that they should get a test. This tells me that we have a huge opportunity to more people screened by getting the medical community involved.

Second, we need to educate the public to take charge of their health, understand their risk and start the screening conversation when their doctors don’t.

The New Screening Assistance Program

I’m excited to be leading the Colon Cancer Alliance’s new Screening Assistance Program, which will launch in March 2014.

As I’ve been conducting my stakeholder calls, I have been learning that the main barriers to people getting screened aren’t as much related to transportation and time away from work but more with the cost and access to the screening.  While the Affordable Care Act is supposed to eliminate a lot of the cost barriers, we will still have large group of people who are not insured.

This new program will address one of the top reasons people don’t get screened – financial barriers. By providing financial grants to get screened, the Colon Cancer Alliance will be moving the dial in a positive direction – helping screening rates to rise beyond 2010 levels of 65.1%.

8 Responses to “CDC Vital Signs Report: Colon Cancer Alliance Reponds”

  1. Deborah Smith says:

    Another issue is the fact that many of those who are insured are not eligible for a screening until age 50. We need to take a look at the increase of those under age 50 that are being diagnosed with colon cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer on Sept 10, 2013 at the age of 44 with no prior family history of colon cancer. A month later my cousin, a single mother at 42 was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer with no prior family history, other than myself. Can the age of screening be decreased to 40 -45 and will the insurance companies permit it?
    I have yet to receive a colonoscopy, I was one of the lucky ones that listened to my body and advocated for myself. A CT abdominal scan detected a blockage in my right colon – a malignant tumor! I have received 3 of 12 chemotherapy treatments and will hopefully be cured by Spring!

    • Pam says:

      Thank God for listening to your body. I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2012. I did not have ant symptoms. I went for a screening after turning 50. I agree that the age for screening need to be pushed back. I speak out as often as I can on screening. but it’s not enough.

  2. Lisa Johnson says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with what Deborah Smith had to say. I too was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 44, Stage IV for me, with no family history of colon cancer. Colon Cancer does not affect only those over the age of 50. We need to get the screening age reduced to 40.

  3. Candy says:

    I agree with Deborah Smith. I have insurance and pay good money for it but still pay $750 for each colon screening which is every 2 years due to a family history of Colon Cancer as my mother and grandfather both passed from Colon Cancer in their 40’s. If I live to be 80 yrs old, I will have paid $15,000 out of pocket over the years for colon screenings and that’s if my deductible stays at $750 throughout my life which is highly unlikely. When I talk to my insurance company about whether or not my screening will be considered routine, they tell me no because I’m under 50 yrs old.

  4. Pam says:

    I absolutely agree with Deborah! My colorectal cancer was diagnosed emergently at age 45. Rectal cancer especially is occuring more frequently now in younger people than in the elderly. 40 needs to be the “new” 50. I have met so many people (especially women) who received their diagnoses in their 40s, and without risk factors.
    I’m kind of surprised the 65% screening is considered “alarming”. Yes, it’s not 100% like we would all like to see, but is that really reasonable? I think we should concentrate on that 15 percent that knows they should be screened, yet don’t do it. I’d wager they have heard horror stories from others about the God-awful prep that person went through before their own colonoscopy. It’s 2013: when will we get a tolerable prep so people aren’t scared off? And some people will never get screened: after my Stage III was discovered everyone in my immediate family got screened EXCEPT my sister with the real risk factors. There will always be some people who will stick their heads in the sand because they don’t want to know.

  5. Yolanda Robles says:

    A month after my 40th birthday I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. I also do not have any family history of colon cancer. In fact I considered myself extremely healthy. I began having blood in my stool and constipation 10 months prior but I kept blaming it on my poor fruit and vegetable consumption and it seemed to get better when I changed my eating habits. One day my son asked me to chaperone a school field trip. The school required a TB test and I missed it at school so I had to go to my own doctor. While I was there I casually mentioned my symptoms. He immediately said I needed a colonoscopy. “Are you kidding? I am only 39 years old.” He said it was probably nothing but it would not hurt to check. I walked out of his office thinking it was unnecessary. So I put it off for another 4 months. Getting the “cancer” call was beyond my comprehension. I had a colectomy and completed my 12th chemo treatment 4 weeks ago. I agree, waiting to 50 years of age for a colonoscopy could be too late.

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