Although a colon cancer screening might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, it is still extremely important. There are far more reasons why you absolutely should commit to regular colon cancer screenings, than reasons not to. Here is an overview of the many compelling reasons why colon cancer screenings are something that you should be a priority.

The Benefits of Colon Cancer Screenings

Colon cancer treatment has come a long way over the years as continuous advancements have made it much more manageable when it’s caught early on. The key to beating colon cancer is knowing whether you have it or not as early as reasonably possible. By agreeing to colon cancer screenings on a regular basis, you can stay on top of things so that if you contract it, you’ll have the vantage ground of prescience.

Preventing colon cancer is of utmost importance because it plays such a key role in beating the disease.

They Are Easy to Perform and There Is Very Little Risk

One of the most commonly used forms of colon cancer screening is a colonoscopy. These procedures are relatively easy to perform with a very low risk of any adverse effects. Overall, the benefits of having a colonoscopy at regular intervals are much more favorable than the consequences of neglecting your screenings. It is recommended that people who are considered to be at average risk of contracting the disease should have a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50.

It’s one of the rites of passage to middle age, and it’s nothing to worry about. Colon cancer screenings help to keep you healthy and safe by ensuring early detection.

You Owe it to Yourself and to Your Family

When it comes down to it, you owe it not only to yourself but also to your family to get screened for colon cancer. One of the most painful situations is one in which there is nothing that could have been done to prevent a potentially fatal disease. In these situations, when no amount of effort could possibly help it leaves families feeling helpless as they watch their loved one struggle in vain.

More painful still, however, are the cases in which the disease could have been prevented quite easily and wasn’t. It’s far better to undergo the mild discomfort and inconveniences of colon cancer screenings than to hope for the best and wind up hearing that you have only a few months to live. In these cases, loved ones can be unforgiving as they seek to place blame on someone in their grief. They will hold you at fault which only adds salt to the wound as no one will ever be harder on you in such a situation than yourself.

Let’s face it, no one knows exactly how much time on this Earth they will be blessed with, but by going to your colon cancer screening tests, you will gain precious knowledge that could save your life.

Does Your Family Have a History of Colon Cancer?

Folks who are considered to be of average risk of contracting colon cancer are encouraged to have a colonoscopy every 10 years or so. If however, someone in your family had colon or rectal cancer, you will be considered to be at a higher risk and will need more frequent screenings.

You should know that if someone in your family had colon cancer, it does not automatically mean that you will succumb to the same disease. Although you will certainly have a higher chance of contracting colon cancer at some point, as long as you’ve been going to your screenings you will be able to catch it early and defeat it much more easily.

For those of you who have had a family member with colon cancer, screening tests like colonoscopies are your safeguard against the disease. Don’t look at a colonoscopy as something to dread, look at it as a way to protect yourself instead.

On the surface, you might be thinking that you can’t afford to have regular colon cancer screenings. Fortunately, colon cancer screenings are exempt from co-pays under the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

 

Numerous challenges present themselves when a patient chooses to get screened for colorectal cancer (CRC), but we know very little about why patients may opt-out of getting screened. 

A survey mailed to 660 patients aged 50-75 years old from the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcome Research Network practices in June-July 2005 posed an open-ended question regarding what the most important barrier to CRC screening might be. Approximately 74% of the individuals who responded noted fear as the most important barrier to CRC screening. According to Nagelhout et al, one of the most common patient-reported barriers is fear, which was observed among 27.6% of responders. Other reasons included:

  • absence of physician advice
  • lack of time, lack of awareness
  • limited information

Patients’ outlook toward the screening procedure and the uncertainties surrounding it seemed to influence their decision to not get screened. Many individuals in the recommended CRC screening age range either lack awareness about why they need to get tested or they believe they don’t need to be screened because they feel ‘fine’.

Fear and anxiety concerning CRC screening is equally prevalent across different racial and ethnic groups. A series of studies suggest fear to serve as the most common barrier in CRC screening. Many patients expressed concern about getting infected with AIDS as a result of a medical device being inserted into their rectum. Several were reluctant to participate due to fear of anticipated pain, while others felt apprehensive about the preparation needed prior to a colonoscopy. Patients also expressed concern about being diagnosed with cancer after getting screened, fear of complications during the screening, and having an overall fear of getting a medical test done.

A significant gender-based difference has also been identified with respect to CRC screening. Women are far more likely to list fear as a barrier primarily due to negative past experiences pertaining to sexual abuse.

Health care providers need to gain a better understanding of barriers from the patient’s perspective, including psychological barriers, as well as what can be done to eliminate them. As noted by Jones et al, patients believe the motivation to overcome fears relies on how passionately physicians advocate for CRC screening. Patients felt that physicians should reiterate and express the importance of CRC screening while remaining empathetic. Above all, physicians need to be mindful that many patients may need to reach a level of comfort before they agree to be screened.

 

The Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF) has been invited to present a poster at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Gastrointestinal Cancer. The event will be held virtually, November 14-15, 2020.

CCF will be presenting findings from its Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer Virtual Summit, held in April 2020, where researchers and cancer care providers shared their experiences with colorectal cancer (CRC)—particularly early-age onset CRC—care during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 323 attendees, presenters focused on changes in screening and surveillance policies, modifying oncological and surgical care, and using alternative care delivery models such a telehealth, among other things, due to the pandemic. Discussions also touched upon the importance of the emotional well-being of clinical care providers.

Be on a lookout for the full meeting report, which will be released on the CCF website in November.

Colon cancer and rectal cancer, commonly grouped together as colorectal cancer (CRC), is on the rise among individuals under the age of 50, with the most notable increase observed amongst individuals aged 20-39 years, according to the American Cancer Society.

Recently, award-winning actor and “Black Panther” star, Chadwick Boseman, lost his 4-year long battle to colon cancer at age 43. Boseman’s tragic death provides an opportunity to convey the urgent message of how colon cancer can impact a young person’s health, even if they are younger than the suggested screening age for those at average risk–usually 50 years.

Colon and rectal cancer remain the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., and the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer globally. In 2020, an estimated one million lives will be lost to CRC across the globe.

The main difference between colon cancer and rectal cancer is the location of the cancerous lesion(s). The last 12 centimeters of the large intestine is identified as the rectum, while the rest of the large intestine is classified as the colon. Differentiating between the two requires the help of a doctor and advanced imaging technology. Identifying whether a person has colon or rectal cancer is also important to identify the treatment strategy needed to fight the cancer.

Colon cancer has about a 2% risk of recurrence. Rectal cancer, on the other hand, has about a 20% chance of recurrence due to the absence of a protective layer called the serosa that exists in the colon. Rectal cancer even poses a greater risk of spreading to surrounding organs—a process known as metastasis. Metasis can complicate treatment as the cancerous cells break away from the original tumor and travel to other areas in the body, most commonly the liver. This process will also advance the cancer to stage IV, the most aggressive stage.

Recent trends indicating the steepest increase in incidence rates amongst younger age groups means young adults should pay careful attention to their gastrointestinal health. Though older age and aging are risk factors for CRC, colon and rectal cancers can both be attributed to varying lifestyle influences including diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption. Specifically, a low-fat diet high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables is best recommended for reducing the onset of colon and rectal cancer. Additionally, a colonoscopy is best recommended for identifying colon and rectal cancer and is often called the “gold standard,” due to the ability to prevent 90% of CRCs.

Most importantly, visit a doctor if any of the following symptoms occur as they may be a sign of CRC:

  • Sudden or unexpected weight loss
  • Abnormal bowel movements that last for more than a few days
  • Bloody or dark stools
  • Cramping or pain in the abdomen
  • Weakness or fatigue

Prevention and detection are simultaneous in most cases, which is why it is important to “check your butt” as early as you can!

 

Chadwick Boseman

The Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF) is heartbroken to learn of the passing of a superhero, Chadwick Boseman. Boseman’s life was tragically cut short on August 28 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, the nation’s second deadliest and third most commonly diagnosed cancer. “On behalf of the thousands of patients, caregivers, clinicians, and researchers who we represent, the Colon Cancer Foundation would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the Boseman family and our support to the millions of people who were touched by Chadwick.” said Cindy R. Borassi, Interim President. 

Chadwick Boseman inspired generations through his singular performances in films such as 42, Marshall, and, of course, the Oscar-nominated Black Panther. Only after his death did the world learn that he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, the same year he debuted as King T’Challa in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Everyone who watched him on screen knew that Chadwick Boseman was an outstanding actor. Many people also knew he was a social justice advocate and an amazing role model. Now we realize that he was also a real-life superhero, showing us what we are capable of achieving no matter what the circumstance. 

Chadwick Boseman’s death tragically demonstrates the alarming increase in the rate of young people between the ages of 20-49 being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Since 2014, CCF has hosted our annual Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer (EAO-CRC) Summit, the nation’s only interdisciplinary event that brings together leading clinicians and scientists, as well as EAO-CRC survivors and caregivers from across the globe. The program provides extensive opportunities for participants to advance their understanding of the rapidly increasing incidence of CRC among young adults under 50 years of age in the U.S. and abroad. We encourage you to check out the executive summaries of our past Summits to learn more about EAO-CRC: https:/eaocrc.org 

Boseman said in a 2018 interview, “You should be the hero in your own story.” The Colon Cancer Foundation has been encouraging people to be their own heroes and heroines since 2008 by raising awareness and spreading the word that colorectal cancer is treatable and beatable with early detection and screening.

As we continue to work towards A World Without Colorectal Cancer™, we encourage you to “be the hero in your own story” and #CheckItForChadwick. To donate in Chadwick’s memory using the following link: https://ccfdonations.greatfeats.com/donate 

 

When it comes to colon cancer screenings, it pays to be informed. The more information you have on it, the more well prepared you will be. You’ll also have less stress because you will know more about what to expect. Here are some helpful colon cancer screening guidelines to help familiarize yourself with the details so that you can make decisions in confidence.

Understanding Colon Cancer

When considering colon cancer screening guidelines, it’s important to understand how colon cancer works. This disease can develop along any of the 5 sections of the colon which include the transverse colon, ascending colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum. That’s a lot of ground to cover, which is why colonoscopies are so popular as a screening method for colon cancer. Colonoscopies are arguably one of the most thorough and effective types of colon cancer screenings available.

What are the Risks?

The risk of forgoing colon cancer screenings goes up over time. By going to your screenings without fail, the risks will be much lower and you will not have to worry as much. It’s important to note that colon cancer screenings should not be looked at as a bad thing. Although it is perfectly natural to be nervous about being screened and hearing the results it’s important to remember that

Early Warning Signs to Watch Out For

In addition to going to your regular screenings, there are some early warning signs to watch out for that can help you detect colon cancer before it has a chance to dig in. One of the most visually apparent of these early warning signs is sudden and unexplained weight loss. This doesn’t mean that you have to worry about colon cancer every time you lose a pound or two. Generally, a loss of 10 pounds over a period of 6 months would warrant a thorough screening like a colonoscopy.

Alternatively, if you know that someone in your family has contracted colon cancer before, you need to tell your Doctor so that they can set up an appropriately aggressive screening schedule. Having a family member with colon cancer is one of the earliest warning signs of all and it’s one that you should take especially seriously. Don’t panic or fret, just be mindful that you’ll have to undergo colon cancer screenings much earlier and more frequently than others.

Typically it is recommended that anyone that has a family member with colon cancer should be screened before the age of 45 rather than after reaching the age of 45. This will give you a much higher chance of catching any signs of colon cancer early and nipping it in the bud before it can do any damage.

Regardless of whether your family has a history of colon cancer or not, if you are diagnosed with having a large polyp or several polyps, you should have a colonoscopy. If adenomatous polyps with a low-grade abnormality are discovered over the course of your colonoscopy it is highly recommended that you have another colonoscopy in 5 years’ time.

Additional Screening Guidelines and Things to Watch Out for

For those of you who have had colorectal surgery, you will need to have a colonoscopy 3 years from the date of your surgery and then another colonoscopy 5 years after that. This will help ensure that you won’t be in for any unwelcome surprises and will catch it early enough to defeat with ease should it ever return.

Generally the very young are not require to be screened for colon cancer unless they have something concerning in their family medical history such as familial adenomatous polyposis. It is recommended that individuals with a family history of familial adenomatous polyposis should have either an annual flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy between the ages of 10 and 12. Given the young age of such patients, a full colonoscopy might be more risk than it’s worth in this case as sigmoidoscopies are considerably less invasive.

Finally, anyone with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer in their family should be screened for colon cancer by age 20-25 or 2 years before their immediate family member’s colon cancer diagnosis, whichever comes first.

When it Comes to Colon Cancer it Pays to be Aggressive

The single best weapon against colon cancer is to be aggressive about screenings and preventative medicine. Colon cancer has a bad habit of sneaking up on people which is why it’s so important to remain vigilant.

Remember, if you catch it early, you won’t have nearly as hard of a time getting rid of it and won’t have to worry about it as much. You have the power to stop colon cancer in its tracks, as long as you keep getting screened for it.

 

 

A recently published white paper by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) titled “Roadmap for the Future of Colorectal Cancer Screening in the United States” states that the development of structured organized screening programs is vital to achieving target colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates and reductions in CRC morbidity and mortality. The paper includes information shared at the AGA’s Center for GI Innovation and Technology’s consensus conference in December 2018, which outlined the following priorities:

  • Identify barriers to screening uptake
  • Assess the efficacy of available screening diagnostic methods
  • Consider the potential integration of novel diagnostic approaches into screening and surveillance paradigms

 

The paper highlights the following strategies:

Modifications to CRC Screening to Improve Uptake and Outcomes

Although over 1,700 organizations across the 50 states signed onto the “80% by 2018” initiative announced by the National Colorectal Cancer Round Table (NCCRT) in 2014, one-quarter of eligible Americans are yet to undergo CRC screening. Organized screening offers an opportunity for screening improvements by the use of multiple strategies, such as defined target populations, timely access and follow-up, and systematic opportunities for shared decision-making between patients and clinicians. It can also improve efficiency by incorporating noninvasive testing such as annual mailed fecal immunochemical (FIT) tests and colonoscopy alternatives like stool testing. Multiple studies have shown that offering stool testing as an option, in addition to colonoscopy, increases screening uptake, however a diagnostic colonoscopy is still necessary to confirm positive noninvasive test results.

Racial, socioeconomic, and geographic health care disparities also limit screening efficacy. African American and Hispanic American communities and individuals in rural areas in particular face screening barriers, accounting for 42% of the disparity in CRC incidence and 19% of the disparity in CRC mortality between black and white individuals.

The following strategies were discussed to resolve these issues:

  • Incorporate adjunct noninvasive testing to improve screening rates
  • Minimize the ineffective practice of performing re-screening and surveillance colonoscopy sooner than recommended by guidelines
  • Reconsider surveillance strategies for individuals with a history of adenomatous polyps to prevent constraining colonoscopy resources

 

Continued Development of Noninvasive and Minimally Invasive screening Tests

The paper states than an ideal, noninvasive test would “identify lesions with high short-term potential to progress to CRC and should do so with high sensitivity and specificity in a convenient, low-risk, low-cost, and operator-independent manner” that is easy to complete and should achieve high uptake among individuals who are eligible for screening. While an ideal test is yet to be developed, the FIT test and a blood test currently face the least resistance from patients. The researchers propose the development of a noninvasive test that is capable of detecting advanced adenomas and advanced serrated lesions while also being minimally invasive and easy-to-use with a one-time sensitivity and specificity of a minimum of 90%.

 

Improved Personal Risk Assessment for Optimal Programmatic Screening

Current risk assessment guidelines focus on familial and personal colorectal neoplasia risk, but do not acknowledge additional factors such as sex, race, smoking, body mass index, and environmental factors. Family history can be challenging to obtain due to a lack of patient awareness and the health care provider’s limited ability to derive and record the information. The researchers have proposed using patient portals with integrated electronic health record to ensure updated and accurate family health history data and to allow health care providers the ability to accurately assess the patient’s risk by looking at the data in the portal, irrespective of their geographic location. Improved personal risk assessment would help health care professionals select the appropriate CRC screening test method. For example, individuals with a higher risk of advanced adenoma or CRC would be directed to a colonoscopy, while individuals with a lower risk would be directed to a less-invasive screening method.

 

Although initiatives like the 80% by 2018 proposed by the NCCRT are a good step towards increased screening rates, the development of organized screening programs is necessary to further these efforts even more. The desired goal of these screening efforts is testing that is available to at-risk individuals, noninvasive testing methods that are highly accurate and easy to use, increased screening uptake, and reduction in CRC incidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A large cohort study that evaluated Swedish family inpatient and outpatient cancer registries found that those who had diabetes had an increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC)—the magnitude of risk was similar to having a family history of CRC.

The study had a long timeline and follow-up was conducted between 1964-2015. The 12,614,256 individuals included in the study were born after 1931; 559,375 of them had diabetes and 162,226 had CRC. The authors queried the risk of developing CRC among those who had diabetes and found that:

  • 9-fold greater risk of CRC before 50 years among those diagnosed with diabetes before 50 years (range, 1.6-2.3)
  • 9-fold higher risk of CRC before age 50 years among those diagnosed with diabetes before 50 years who also had a family history of CRC (range, 4.1-12)
  • Lifetime risk of CRC before age 50 years among diabetic patients (0.4%) was similar to those with just a family history of CRC (0.5%). It was double that of the average population (0.2%).

This study confirms the positive association between early-onset diabetes and early-onset CRC and makes a case for earlier CRC screening among young adults with diabetes.

Results from the South Australian Young Onset (SAYO) CRC study identified a similar correlation between personal and family history of diabetes and CRC risk. The study cohort included 50 unrelated young adults up to age 55 years diagnosed with CRC (23-54 years), and 253 controls without CRC (18-54 years). Personal and family history of diabetes was documented in this entire population. The study found:

  • 24% of CRC patients also suffered from type II diabetes compared with 5% of the control group
  • 51% of young adults with CRC had at least one first-degree relative with type II diabetes
  • All patients with a personal history of type II diabetes also had first-degree relatives with type II diabetes
  • 44% of CRC patients under 45 years and 60% of CRC patients 45-54 years had a first-degree relative with type II diabetes

These findings create a very strong case for raising awareness among young adults with diabetes of their increased risk of early-onset CRC, especially if there is a family history of diabetes, so they can initiate CRC screening earlier than the USPSTF recommendation of 50 years.

2020 has been a challenging year in so many ways, but especially for the cancer community. However, colon cancer does not stop for Covid-19 and neither do we! We were extremely excited to continue the legacy of the physical Colon Cancer Challenge by going virtual this year. 2020 also marked the 17th year of the Challenge, where teams of families, friends, co-workers, local and national corporations come together to raise awareness of colorectal cancer, support those battling the disease and raise funds for the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation’s strategic initiatives of Public Awareness, Prevention, and Research. 

We were blown away by the support of our community during this unprecedented time, and are happy to recognize Maya Degnemark and Darryl Gross for their efforts and support during the Challenge. They ran over 1,200 miles collectively during our virtual event, each for their own reasons which you can learn more about below:

 

Maya Degnemark, top female winner of the Global Colon Cancer Challenge

My name is Maya Degnemark, I am 16 years old and I live in Brooklyn, New York. I have watched my uncle, Sanjay Bery, battle colon cancer for many years and now I proudly stand beside him fighting for this cause. Though I have been on my school’s running team since I began high school and have participated in many local races (including the physical race for colon cancer the last couple of years), I have never been so serious about running or about staying healthy. Things changed, however, in mid- March when my packed everyday life quickly changed (and ultimately became more relaxed), and I saw the opportunity to set both a weight loss and general health goal for myself (and compete in this virtual challenge, which I did not know was this great when I started!) Since then, I have been staying very active – even reaching my 100th day of running (between 3 and 6.5 miles) on July 26th. Now looking back on the past few months and this challenge, I am proud of myself for achieving my personal goals but for also using my own determination to fight for a much greater cause. I thank everyone who participated in this challenge, donated to this organization, or just helped raise awareness for this cause. I am dedicated to continue working with this organization in the years to come and continuing to commend them for their fantastic fight.

Darryl Gross, top male winner of the Global Colon Cancer Challenge

I became involved with CCF after my wife, Jessica, was diagnosed with colon cancer back in April. It’s been a whirlwind since then with surgeries and having to then start chemotherapy.  The experience has been very hard especially during these times. The positive is that her cancer was caught relatively early due to her proactivity.  She knew her body and she felt something was not right and pressed the issue of getting a colonoscopy with her gastroenterologist even as the world was shutting down in March due to Covid-19.   Knowing her body, her intuition was right as she had a cancerous polyp that was removed during her colonoscopy.  She then had to have an additional colorectal surgery before starting chemo.  Chemotherapy will be done in November just in time for the holiday season! She’s 36 and her prognosis is great because she was proactive in getting a colonoscopy even during these uncertain times. It’s been an extra challenging time with everything else going on but we are pushing through. I know both my wife and our world will be better soon! Through this whole situation we have realized how important friends and family are and the power of positive thinking! We are very grateful for everyone in our lives!

As far our involvement with the foundation, it’s new but will be a cause we will support for the rest of our lives.  I saw the notification of the activity challenge and as a family who supports physical activity (we are both runners), I thought it was something great to get involved with.  I plan on participating for many years to come!

 

First introduced in February 2017, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2019 (H.R. 1570/S. 668) aims to waive Medicare coinsurance for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening tests, regardless of the code billed for a resulting diagnosis or procedure. The bill sponsors are: Representatives Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Donald McEachin (D-VA), and David McKinley (R-WV) in the House and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate.

The bill acknowledges that CRC is largely preventable if polyps are detected early and removed before they become cancerous. But there is a large gap in CRC screening rates in the country, with 60% of CRC cases and 70% of deaths occurring in those 65 and over. In order to improve colonoscopy rates, the bill, if passed, will eliminate any unexpected costs, and remove financial barriers that prevent seniors from being screened.

In a statement supporting H.R. 1570 and S. 668, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) explains that seniors who set up a screening colonoscopy visit do so assuming there is no cost sharing since it’s a screening procedure. However, detection and removal of a polyp during the screening can result in the enrollee facing a surprise medical bill because removing the polyp changes the colonoscopy to a diagnostic process. Medicare enrollees are responsible for a 20% copay on diagnostic procedures, and this amount may vary based on the procedure and the facility where it was conducted. ACS CAN says that Medicare beneficiaries may be sensitive to such out-of-pocket (OOP) costs, and it may deter them from undergoing screening colonoscopy.

ACS CAN is hopeful that removal of this OOP cost loophole can not only save lives by catching CRC at an earlier stage, but it will also result in savings for Medicare, which is expected to spend $20 billion on CRC treatment in 2020 alone.