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FOR RELEASE: May 8, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Screening for Colorectal Cancer is Urged by Health Officials
National Media Campaign to Raise Public Awareness

Early screening and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer can save lives. Yet alarmingly, the American Cancer Society estimates that 57,100 people will die from colorectal cancer this year in the United States and an estimated 148,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed. In Oklahoma, an estimated 2,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancer will be diagnosed and 800 Oklahoma lives will be lost as a result of colon and rectal cancer. This is disturbing news to Oklahoma State Department of Health officials, who want the public to know more about the potentially life-saving screening tests now available for colorectal cancer.

Like many cancers, the development of colorectal cancer can take several years. Screening is an important tool to help detect colorectal cancer early by identifying precancerous growths or polyps, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

“Researchers estimate that if everyone age 50 or older received regular colorectal cancer screenings, at least one-third of the deaths would be prevented. Yet, recent data indicates that less than 40 percent of adults age 50 or older have had one of the available colorectal cancer screening tests as recommended,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “More than 90 percent of people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over age 50,” he said.

In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms. In the later stages, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, and cramping pain in the lower abdomen may occur. The primary risk factor for colorectal cancer is age. Personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease may increase risk. Also, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, high fat and low fiber diet may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Beginning at age 50, men and women who are at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have one of the following: fecal occult blood test annually, flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, colonoscopy, or double contrast barium enema. A digital rectal examination should be done at the same time as the other tests.

Health officials recommend that individuals talk with their healthcare providers about screening, testing, the benefits and risks of each test, and how often to schedule appointments. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide Medicare coverage for regular colorectal cancer screening tests to help detect precancerous conditions or colorectal cancer early.

A recently announced national media campaign to raise awareness about colorectal screening was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their federal partners at CMS. It includes English and Spanish television, print and radio public service announcements and other materials like posters, brochures and fact sheets as part of "Screen for Life: the National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign.” All media campaign materials use the theme - “If you’re 50 or older, get tested for colorectal cancer.”

For more information about the "Screen for Life" campaign, or to order materials, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/screenforlife or call 1-888-842-6355. For information about Medicare coverage of colorectal cancer screening, visit <http://www.medicare.gov/>. To learn about colorectal cancer testing, diagnoses, and treatment, call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.

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