According to new Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer screen rates remain low. The findings are disturbing given that research overwhelmingly shows that colorectal cancer screening tests can save lives. Yet, one in three adults ages 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer—the second leading cancer killer among men and women in the United States.
“There are more than 20 million adults in this country who haven’t had any recommended screening for colorectal cancer and who may therefore get cancer and die from a preventable tragedy,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Screening for colorectal cancer is effective and can save your life.”
The CDC recommends adults aged 50 years and older get tested to prevent cancer or, more importantly, detect it at an early stage while treatment can be highly effective.
Saving lives through early detection was the mantra underscored by Howard Koh, M.D., MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the NACHC Community Health Institute in August. During his remarks, Koh announced a new initiative in advancing colorectal screening around the country at Community Health Center sites. Noting that health centers are uniquely qualified and have a long tradition of addressing disparities in public health, Koh said “I am eager to show that this screening, this life saving intervention, can work even in the most underserved populations, and even in the most overwhelmed locations in the United States, even with our most vulnerable clients.”
Koh also called on health centers to review their colorectal cancer screenings to set goals and ensure patients who receive positive test results are properly followed up with and referred to treatment. He also recommended that health centers connect with other leaders in the community to make it a nationally recognized initiative. His recommendations are echoed by the CDC report which notes that “more people may get tested if health care providers used an organized approach to identify people who need to be screened; contact them at their home or community setting; advise them of each test; and carefully monitor to make sure they complete their test.”
Visit the CDC’s Vital Signs website to read more about this report, see the infographic, and fact sheet.