Missing the Message on Colon Cancer

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American Cancer Society Finds Too Many Colon Cancers in NY and NJ Diagnosed at Later, Less Treatable Stages; Lawmakers Must Support Cancer Screening Program for Uninsured


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New York, NY (March 5, 2012) - If you’re going to be diagnosed with colon cancer, the sooner the better. But, despite some gains, the majority of New Yorkers still aren’t getting the message that early detection of colon cancer could save their lives.

The American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey today released Missing the Message: A Report on Colon Cancer Detection 2012. The report shows that while fewer New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are presenting with later stage colon cancer and more people age 50 and older are getting recommended screenings, 57 percent of colon cancers statewide were found at later stages when there are fewer treatment options and survival rates are lower. Data examined in the report is from 2004-2008.

This marks an improvement from the 60.2 percent diagnosed at a later stage revealed in the previous report from 2008 (for the time period 1994-1998). New York and New Jersey showed a significant gain in the number of residents being screened for colon cancer. In 2010, 70 percent of those over 50 reported having had a recommended colon cancer screening as outlined by American Cancer Society screening guidelines, up dramatically from 56 percent in 2004.

“We’re making progress, but as long as people are dying from colon cancer, there’s room for improvement,” said Dr. Alvaro Carrascal, American Cancer Society Senior Vice President of Cancer Control. “We know colon cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented through screening, and if not prevented, detecting colon cancer early greatly increases survival rates.”

The percentage of early stage diagnosis for New York and New Jersey as a whole improved slightly; however some counties did not follow that trend and saw an increase in later stage colon cancers. In New York, those counties were Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Cortland, Dutchess, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Hamilton, Jefferson, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Seneca, and Tompkins. In New Jersey, those counties were Hunterdon and Warren.

“Small population size is one explanation for some of the year to year increases in the percentage of later stage diagnoses in some counties,” added Dr. Carrascal. “Other factors which tend to increase rates of later stage detection include lack of transportation to testing and lack of insurance. Unfortunately, many people without health insurance don’t see a doctor on a regular basis and therefore are not urged to get tested for colon cancer.”

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2010 nearly 2.9 million New Yorkers and 1.3 million New Jerseyans lacked health insurance. Of adults 50-64 years of age without health insurance, 38 percent received fecal occult blood tests or sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy tests as recommended in the American Cancer Society’s screening guidelines. The American Cancer Society has made access to health care and improving coverage for colon cancer screening a high priority, working with both the federal and state government and private insurers to increase the availability of testing.

Lawmakers can help the uninsured by funding the New York State Cancer Services Program (CSP) at the level advanced by Gov. Cuomo. In New Jersey, lawmakers can help by boosting state support for cancer screening programs because Gov. Christie has proposed no increase in funding for the NJ Cancer Education and Early Detection Screening Program (NJCEED). The CSP and NJCEED offer free colorectal, cervical and breast cancer screenings for the uninsured and underinsured. In New York, anyone diagnosed with colon cancer through the CSP automatically qualifies for Medicaid assistance, removing fear about paying for treatment as a barrier to screening.

In 2012, the American Cancer Society estimates 9,300 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in New York State and about 3,090 will die of the disease. In New Jersey this year, the American Cancer Society estimates 4,630 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed and about 1,600 will die of the disease.

The risk for colon cancer increases with age with more than 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in individuals aged 50 years and older. Screening can result in the detection and removal of polyps before they become cancerous as well as the detection of cancer that is at an early, more treatable stage.

When colon cancer is detected at an early, localized stage the 5-year survival rate is 90 percent. After cancer has spread regionally to involve adjacent organs or lymph nodes, the survival rate drops to 68 percent. For persons with distant metastases the 5-year survival rate is 10 percent.

Additional Reading:
2012 American Cancer Society Missing the Message Report for New York

2012 American Cancer Society Missing the Message Report for New Jersey
American Cancer Society guide on colon cancer


About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

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