Living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, but regular screening is also important. Testing can often find colorectal cancer early, when it’s most treatable, or sometimes even prevent it altogether. For that reason, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Anthem Foundation are working together to encourage all men and women to get screened beginning at age 50. And together their efforts to increase awareness are already helping remove barriers.
With support from the Anthem Foundation, the Society’s Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) Grant Program has provided individuals over 128,000 outreach and education engagements and provided more than 18,900 colorectal cancer screenings from 2013 through April 1, 2016.
Though colorectal cancer cases have been steadily decreasing for the past two decades, it remains the third most common cancer in both men and women. This year, an estimated 95,270 cases of colon cancer and 39,220 cases of rectal cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. and an estimated 49,190 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected to occur in 2016.
“Colorectal cancer screening is one of the best opportunities to prevent cancer or diagnose it early, when it’s most treatable,” says Richard Wender, M.D., chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “Despite this compelling reason to be screened, many people either have never had a colorectal cancer screening test or are not up to date with screening.”
Interestingly, nearly all unscreened people know that they should be screened. In fact, awareness about colorectal cancer screening recommendations approaches 100 percent. According to American Cancer Society research of more than 2,000 unscreened adults, the organization has identified some pretty clear ideas about what’s stopping people from taking that lifesaving step.
Top five reasons people say they aren’t getting screened for colorectal cancer:
• They heard the test is difficult or painful, and they may be embarrassed to discuss colorectal cancer screening with their doctor.
• Because they have no family history, they think they aren’t at risk and don’t have to be screened.
• They think screening is only for those who have symptoms.
• They are concerned about the cost of the test.
• Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they are concerned about the complexity and cost of having a colonoscopy, including the need to take time off from work, the need to have a ride home, and the potential for high out-of-pocket expenses, which all combine to discourage them from having a colonoscopy.
Partnerships like the American Cancer Society and the Anthem Foundation make a difference to patients and offer innovative approaches to providing financial help for getting tested, affordable and tolerable preparation for colorectal cancer testing, and transportation to get that testing.
“The fact is, getting screened for colorectal cancer can save your life,” says Craig Samitt, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Anthem, Inc. “Colorectal cancer is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented through screening. Early detection helps us catch small growths that can be removed before becoming cancerous. Partnering with organizations like the American Cancer Society helps us to address the barriers and misconceptions about screening, which is a top priority. By continuing to support this critical area, we can prevent the advancement of colon cancer and help save lives.”
For more information on colorectal cancer, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345, or visit cancer.org/colon.