March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

The start of March marked Colon Cancer Awareness Month and advocacy for preventative screenings.

Last year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill declaring March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in the commonwealth.

Currently, for those covered by Medicare, there should be no co-pay for a colonoscopy. But, while under anesthesia, if a doctor finds a polyp and removes it, the patient could wake up to a bill of several hundred dollars.

Kaitlin Pomerleau, community manager for the American Cancer Society, said this shouldn’t be happening.

“It is keeping people from getting screenings,” she said.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is supporting the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screenings Act, which is designed to close this loophole. The network is working to get state senators and representatives behind the legislation.

According to the American Cancer Society’s website, www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer, colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the U.S. when men and women are considered separately, and the second leading cause of death when combined.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the U.S. for 2016 are 95,270 new cases of colon cancer and 39,220 new cases of rectal cancer, with an estimated 49,190 deaths.

In Virginia, there are an estimated 43,190 new cases and 14,910 deaths.

The National Cancer Institute’s State Cancer Profiles website, www.statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/incidencerates, colorectal cancer trends have been stable in this area, based off of data from 2008 to 2012.

In Shenandoah County during that period, there were, on average, 16 cases of colorectal cancer. In Warren County the average also was 16. The average number of cases in Frederick County was 30.

The website states, “Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about one in 21, or 4.7 percent, for men, and one in 23, or 4.4 percent for women.”

This cancer is often found after symptoms appear, but in the early stages, symptoms may not be present.

“This is why it’s important to get the recommended screening tests before any symptoms develop,” the site stated.

Pomerleau added, “I would recommend for people to start the conversation by talking with their primary care physician about what screening options they are best suited for given their age and family history.”

The American Cancer Society and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable are also asking health care systems, organizations and corporations to sign a pledge and adopt policies to get 80 percent of adults age 50 and older regularly screened for colon cancer by 2018.

In addition to the 80 percent by 2018 initiative, they are asking people to take part in “+1,” which means asking someone they know if they have been screened and if they haven’t, tell them to speak with their doctor about scheduling an appointment to do so.

Pomerleau said they are also using social media and asking those who participate to post a picture with their “+1” and say what that person means to them and why they want them to get screened.

This is to “to encourage them to get their screening and to be their plus one,” she said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com