DPH Joins Movement to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates by 2018

March 9, 2015

Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among Georgia’s adult population. Despite the prevalence of the disease, colorectal cancer screening is one of the most common health evaluations patients overlook.

In recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is standing in solidarity with the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCR), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in support of the “80% by 2018” initiative – a nationwide effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.

“Studies have proven that preventing colorectal cancer is highly achievable when patients secure proper screenings to evaluate their risks for developing the disease,” said Melody Brown, program manager for DPH’s Colorectal Cancer Program. “The ‘80% by 2018’ campaign is a well-timed effort that allows health providers to share a unified message about cancer prevention to at-risk or unscreened populations. We are proud to join this movement and intend to do our part in Georgia to help our partners attain this ambitious colorectal cancer screening goal.”

Each year, there are 4,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in Georgia, according to recent data from DPH. From 2006-2011, 6,885 Georgians died due to colorectal cancer. Nearly 1,377 deaths occur each year due to this disease, with 711 of them among the male population. While it is well documented that the disease impacts males more frequently, the risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer sharply increases after age 64 for both males and females.

Colorectal cancer can go undetected for many years due to an absence of immediate symptoms. For this reason, screening is the single-most important measure patients can take to effectively evaluate their risk for developing the disease.

“Early stage colorectal cancer is asymptomatic, so if you’re waiting for your body to tell you something is wrong, you’re waiting too late,” said Shana Scott, J.D., MPH, DPH health systems manager, Chronic Disease Prevention Section. “We encourage all Georgians to take responsibility for their health. Don’t procrastinate – if you are at risk for colorectal cancer, age 50 or have a family history of the disease, make it a priority to talk with your physician to get screened.”

During colorectal cancer screening through colonoscopies, health providers can identify precancerous polyps inside the colon or rectum. Based on the patient’s health status, the polyps can be immediately removed or treated to minimize risks of developing colorectal cancer.

For patients with reservations about the colonoscopy process, additional evaluation methods are also available. Screening options, such as FIT or FOBT stool tests, are less invasive but still provide effective screening for the disease.

In addition to screening, colorectal cancer can be prevented through common positive health behaviors. Remaining physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol and smoking are all daily lifestyle changes you can implement to lower your risks of developing the disease.

According to ACS, 1 in 20 people will face a diagnosis of colorectal cancer in their lives. Join DPH and our partners as we work to combat colorectal cancer in our communities through effective screening and prevention methods.

Visit www.dph.georgia.gov/colorectal-cancer to learn more about colorectal cancer and secure helpful tips on how to talk with your doctor about the disease. For more information about the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and its “80% by 2018” initiative, visit www.nccrt.org.

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