Colorectal cancer screening rates remain low

June 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Few Americans are getting screened for colorectal cancer, according to a study by the CDC.

Although scientific evidence shows that more than one-third of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided if people aged 50 and older were screened regularly, few Americans are getting screened, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that only 53.1% of U.S. men and women aged 50 years and older had received colorectal cancer testing within the recommended screening periods.

Deaths could be avoided

In 2003, an estimated 57,100 Americans will die from colorectal cancer, despite the fact that screening could find the precancerous polyps that lead to the disease. Compared with other cancer screening rates for women over age 50, such as mammography (92.1%), the use of colorectal cancer tests remains low.

"We are still losing too many lives to a disease that largely can be prevented," said Tommy Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "Colorectal cancer is one cancer where regular screening clearly has benefits. Screening saves lives."

The CDC recommends that men and women begin regular colorectal cancer screening when they reach age 50 using one or a combination of the four recommended screening tests: fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or barium enema. According to the most current survey data, just 44.6% of adults in this age group reported ever having a fecal occult blood test, and 47.3% reported ever having a lower endoscopy (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy). Widespread use of these tests has the potential to save many lives through prevention and effective treatment of early-stage disease.

"This new report provides more evidence that many who are at risk for colorectal cancer are not getting recommended screenings," said Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC. "We must continue to expand our efforts to educate Americans and their healthcare providers that colorectal cancer is treatable and often preventable." PR

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