March is coming to a close, and with it, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. But when the clock strikes midnight on the 31st, we shouldn’t lose sight of the devastation that colorectal cancer can cause. A new story from the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy explores Kaiser Permanente’s journey towards improving screening rates, and outlines what it will take for the nation to do the same.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in America and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with an estimated 49,700 Americans who may lose their lives to the disease in 2015. The good news is that it is highly treatable if caught early; up to 80 percent of deaths can be prevented if everyone over 50 receives a recommended screening. The bad news is that many people — about a third of all Americans and even more in certain racial or ethnic groups, such as Latinos — still aren’t getting screened.
Over the past 10 years, Kaiser Permanente has been leading the charge to improve colorectal cancer screening rates and reduce deaths due to the disease. By reminding people to get screened at every point of care, improving access to the Fecal Immunochemical Test (an easy, home-based colorectal cancer test) and focusing on disparities, Kaiser Permanente has nearly doubled screening rates — from 43 percent in 2004 to 82 percent in 2013.
If you are over 50 or at risk of colorectal cancer, please remember to get screened. And check out the Institute for Health Policy story for more information.