Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives Yet Screening Rates Remain Below Standard

Article

Almost 1 in 3 adults in the United States do not get screened regularly.

Polyp

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer of the colon or rectum usually develops from precancerous polyps. Increased screening—which can comprise a fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, and/or colonoscopy—for these polyps resulted in a 3.4% decreased incidence of colon cancer between the years 2003 and 2007. Almost 1 in 3 adults in the United States, however, do not get screened regularly.

The death rate from colon cancer dropped by 3% per year during 2003 to 2007. This represents an estimated 66,000 cases of colon cancer prevented and an estimated 32,000 lives saved. Screening rates increased by nearly 15% in 2002, largely due to increased awareness of disease mortality after Katie Couric’s on-air colonoscopy. Although both the incidence and death rates dropped by more than 3% during this 5-year period, more than 53,000 people died of colorectal cancer in 2007.

The CDC said that if all patients aged 50 to 75 years—and younger patients who have risk factors for the disease—adhered to the government’s screening target rate (70.5% of the eligible population) by 2020, an extra 1000 deaths from colon cancer could be prevented each year. Reducing risk factors such as smoking and obesity also help lower the death rate. Unfortunately, nearly half of all cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed late, when it is harder to treat.

More important than celebrity awareness ads is that physicians recommend appropriate colon cancer screening for their patients. Otherwise, the CDC says that patients are less likely to get screened.

Related Videos
A panel of 6 experts on colorectal cancer
A panel of 6 experts on colorectal cancer
Manish A. Shah, MD
Rona Yaeger, MD
Dae Won Kim, MD, Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, Moffitt Cancer Center
A panel of 6 experts on colorectal cancer
A panel of 6 experts on colorectal cancer
Michael J. Overman, MD, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center,
John Michael Bryant, MD,
Jacob Shreve, MD, MS, hematology/oncology fellow, Mayo Clinic