March 11, 2015
In 2000, President Bill Clinton named March Colon Cancer Awareness month to increase education and screening for the deadly disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from colorectal cancer have declined for more than two decades, mostly because of increased screenings, including colonoscopies and other tests. However, this preventable disease continues to kill 50,000 Americans each year and is the leading cause of cancer death among nonsmokers.
ASCA contributed to the month by working with colorectal cancer advocate US Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) to produce a public service announcement on preventive screenings.
“Watching my father go through the treatment and ultimately losing his fight with colorectal cancer was painful and difficult for my family,” Rep. Payne says in the video. “Today, I remind others to get their colonoscopies and ensure that they know the importance of early screening so others may not have to experience the loss that my family has endured.”
Others in Congress are doing their part as well, US Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Reps. Joe Courtney (CT-2), Charlie Dent (PA-15), Michael Fitzpatrick (PA-8) and Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) introduced the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (S. 624 / H.R. 1220). The legislation would correct an oversight in federal law that requires Medicare beneficiaries to cover the cost of their copayment for a “free” screening colonoscopy when a polyp is discovered and removed during the procedure.
The CDC estimates that if all precancerous polyps were identified and removed before becoming cancerous, the number of new colorectal cancer cases could be reduced by 76 to 90 percent.
ASCs play a vital role in ensuring patient access to preventive measures, such as colonoscopies, in a convenient and affordable setting. Today, ASCs perform more than 40 percent of colonoscopies covered by Medicare. They have the capacity to do more: when these life-saving procedures are performed in ASCs, both beneficiaries and the Medicare program save money because surgery centers perform the procedures at a lower cost.
To find out more about how you can participate in Colon Cancer Awareness month, click here. And, for more information on ASCA's legislative support of the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Act, contact Blake McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.