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Economy could reduce colorectal cancer screening rate

Bethesda, MD (March 1, 2009) Even in the best economic environment, only half of the people who need colorectal cancer screening receive the life-saving test. Those without health insurance or with limited coverage that does not include colorectal cancer screenings are even less likely to be screened. During March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is working to raise awareness of how the economy could negatively impact cancer screening. A bill in Congress could help bridge the gap.

"The mortality rate of colorectal cancer continues to decline but remains the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.," said Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF, president of the AGA Institute. "Colon cancer death is largely preventable through screening, which can detect disease in an early, curable stage. Screening with colonoscopy can also prevent cancers by removing precancerous polyps. Unfortunately, most people at risk are never screened. We need to reverse that trend."

Due to the worsening economy, many people are losing health insurance or are faced with higher premiums and are forgoing preventive screening, including for colorectal cancer. Additionally, barriers to screening still exist among racial and ethnic lines, with African Americans and Hispanics being more likely to lack health insurance, thus less likely to be screened. These individuals have a higher death rate due to more advanced disease at diagnosis.

The AGA firmly believes that all Americans should have access to lifesaving colorectal cancer screenings. Average risk patients should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 50. The AGA is working with our advocates in Congress and coalition partners to ensure patients have the ability to consult with their doctors to choose the screening options that are best for them.

AGA Supports Creation of CRC Screening Program at CDC

Rep. Kay Granger, R-TX, plans to reintroduce legislation this month that she authored in the 110th Congress, the Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act, which would establish a life-saving program to fight colorectal cancer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) similar to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. The bill would establish a program to provide colorectal cancer screenings and treatment for individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 or those high-risk individuals under age 50. Additionally, the bill would prioritize screening and treatment for low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals, as well as ensure the full continuum of care for individuals screened, including appropriate follow-up, diagnostic and therapeutic services, and treatment for detected cancers.

The AGA supports the Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act and believes it will not only prevent more cases of colorectal cancer, but also lead to cost savings for Medicare and our health-care system. We urge Congress to enact this legislation. To show support for this bill, visit the AGA advocacy page at to contact local legislators.

AGA Members Give Back

Around the country, AGA members are giving back to their communities by offering free colonoscopies to uninsured and underinsured Americans. In Massachusetts, the AGA Institute is collaborating with the New England chapter of the American Cancer Society and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to host the first Massachusetts Free Colonoscopy Day. Nine medical centers in and around Boston are participating to provide free colonoscopies to low income uninsured adults age 50 and over identified by the Department of Public Health Women's Health Network and Men's Health Partnership.


Contact: Aimee Frank
American Gastroenterological Association

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