States Urged to Recognize and Address Colon Cancer Screening Gaps

Mar 01, 2012, 09:30 ET from Entertainment Industry Foundation

Need for Colon Cancer Screening Coverage for High-Risk and Underserved Populations Remains a Priority Under New Health Law

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A coalition of 13 colorectal cancer prevention groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA), today called on lawmakers in 20 states to ensure that their citizens have access to lifesaving colon cancer screening procedures.  While the federal health care law will expand access to colorectal cancer screening exams for millions of Americans, particularly those aged 50-75, the groups say states have a responsibility to ensure that people not covered by the law, particularly those in high-risk populations, can get these life-saving examinations.

"State legislatures need to act to ensure that everyone who needs colorectal cancer screening has access to the latest technology and screening modalities," said Lisa Paulsen, CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, of which the NCCRA is a part.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 143,460 people in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 51,690 are expected to die from the disease in 2012, making it the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined. The disease is often entirely preventable through the removal of precancerous polyps, which are detectable only through screening, and the five-year survival rate for those who have their cancer detected at an early stage is 90%.

"States cannot allow people to go untested and untreated for colorectal cancer," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO of ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. "We cannot turn our back on those who may still not receive coverage for colorectal cancer screening under the new health care law.  We need state lawmakers to stand up and put the protections in place that will save lives and save money."

Early detection and treatment greatly enhances survival; yet only 39% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed while the disease is still in the localized stage. If the majority of men and women aged 50 or older participated in routine screening for colorectal cancer, the risk of death could be reduced by about 50 percent. However, only 55 percent of the U.S. population aged 50 and older is screened according to national guidelines. Among those without health coverage, the screening rates drop to only about 20 percent.

"We know that prevention and early detection from screening saves lives, and will save health care dollars for the states in the long run," Paulsen said.

Not All People, Not All Procedures Covered
In an effort to further reduce new cases of colorectal cancer, many states have implemented legislation to ensure that insurance providers cover the cost of colon cancer screening procedures.  Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) many people are – or will be – guaranteed access to no-cost screening services. However, certain at-risk groups who need to be screened outside of the general age and frequency guidelines, such as those under the age of 50 with a family history of colorectal cancer or a history of gastrointestinal disorders, may not be covered without state insurance mandates.

What's more, under the new federal legislation, not all screening services will be covered. States must continue to implement mandates that include screening methods beyond the minimum recommendations required in the ACA, such as virtual colonoscopy and other emerging technologies.

During the past year, not one state has passed new legislation mandating insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings. According to the National Colorectal Cancer Legislation Report Card, some 17 states still receive an "F" grade for not mandating any insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings and another three states have legislation that is severely limited in scope.

About the Report Card Coalition
Launched in 2004, the Colorectal Cancer Legislation Report Card initiative is supported by a coalition that includes American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the Cancer Support Community, C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition, Colon Cancer Alliance, Hadassah, Prevent Cancer Foundation, The Colon Club, The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health, and the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (EIF's NCCRA).  

Now entering its ninth year, the Colorectal Cancer Legislation Report Card initiative continues to make an impact, providing an effective tool for influential organizations in the fight against colon cancer in their work to generate awareness of screening's importance and encourage the enactment of state legislation requiring insurers to cover the costs of colorectal cancer tests. When the Report Card Initiative began in 2004, 18 states had passed screening legislation.  As of 2010, 30 states and the District of Columbia had passed such laws. No new screening legislation has been passed since.   

For more information, visit, or @EIF_NCCRA on Twitter.

SOURCE Entertainment Industry Foundation