Upstate New Yorkers are risking their lives by not being screened for colon cancer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Tens of thousands of adults in upstate New York are gambling with their health by choosing not to be screened for colon cancer, according to research findings issued today by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among adults in the United States.

“Each year in upstate New York, 2,300 people are diagnosed with colon cancer,” says Richard Lockwood, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Central New York region. “Upstate New York averages 800 deaths a year from the disease.”

Regular screenings can detect early-stage colon cancer before symptoms develop. Early detection is important, because treatments are more likely to be successful for early-stage, rather than late-stage, cancer.

Colonoscopy is the most thorough screening test and is proven to prevent the disease. Removing benign or pre-cancerous polyps during colonoscopy can not only prevent colon cancer, but also reduce deaths from the disease for years, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Colon cancer screening is recommended every ten years for all adults ages 50 to 75. Individuals who have colon cancer risk factors, including a family history of colon cancer or previous polyps, may need to have their first screening at a younger age, and/or more frequently.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield pledged its support for the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s “80% by 2018” goal of having 80 percent of adults ages 50 and older screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. Currently, one-third of upstate New York adults in the 50- to 75-year-old age range have not been screened.

The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable was founded in 1997 by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If achieved, the screening goal of “80% by 2018” would prevent 277,000 cases of colorectal cancer, and 203,000 associated deaths, by 2030.

“Colon cancer screening is covered in full as an ‘essential benefit’ of all health insurance, so there’s really no excuse for not getting screened,” says Lockwood, “and it could save your life.”

Learn more about colon cancer screening from a viewable and downloadable Excellus BlueCross BlueShield infographic, online at http://tinyurl.com/j3bnxo7. Learn more about the “80% by 2018” initiative at http://nccrt.org/.