March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings, which have been proven to save lives. Straub Medical Center recently made the pledge to help increase colorectal cancer screening rates by supporting the “80% by 2018” initiative, led by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (an organization co-founded by ACS and CDC).
Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. However, it is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented. Through proper colorectal cancer screening, doctors can find and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) in the colon, before they become cancerous. Removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.
“80% by 2018” is a National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) initiative in which more than 500 organizations have committed to substantially reducing colorectal cancer as a major public health problem, and are working toward the shared goal of 80 percent of adults ages 50 and older being regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. Leading public health organizations, such as ACS, CDC and the NCCRT are rallying organizations to embrace this shared goal.
“We are thrilled to join the cause to improve colorectal cancer screening rates,” said Dr. Donald Saelinger, Straub gastroenterologist and chief of the Straub Department of Gastroenterology. “We are asking all members of our community to come together and help us by getting screened and talking to your friends and family who are over 50 years of age about getting screened. Together, we can help to eliminate colorectal cancer as a major public health problem.”
While colorectal cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent in the U.S. over the last 10 years among adults 50 and older, it is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S, despite being highly preventable, detectable and treatable. In fact, in 2015 in the U.S., 132,700 cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed.
Part of the 80% by 2018 goal is to leverage the energy of multiple and diverse partners to empower communities, patients and providers to increase screening rates. The 80% by 2018 initiative consists of health care providers, health systems, communities, businesses, community health centers, government, nonprofit organizations and patient advocacy groups who are committed to getting more people screened for colorectal cancer to prevent more cancers and save lives.
Straub’s primary care physicians and gastroenterologists are committed to helping create a healthier Hawaii by determining what screening modality is best for each individual. Most often recommendations include colonoscopy screening or stool tests for the detection of blood or cancer DNA.
“Colorectal cancer is a major public health problem, and adults age 50 and older should be regularly screened for it, but we have found that many people aren’t getting tested because they don’t believe they are at risk, don’t understand that there are testing options or don’t think they can afford it,” said Dr. Ian Okazaki, Straub oncologist and member of the American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific Board of Directors. “The truth is that the vast majority of cases of colorectal cancer occur in people age 50 and older. Colorectal cancer in its early stages usually has no symptoms, so everyone 50 and older should get tested. There are several screening options – even take home options – available. Plus, many public and private insurance plans cover colorectal cancer screening and there may be local resources available to help those that are uninsured.”
For more information about colorectal cancer and Straub’s gastroenterology services, visit StraubHealth.org.
Dr. Ian Okazaki, Straub oncologist (second from left), and Dr. Donald Saelinger, Straub gastroenterologist (fourth from left) signed the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable's "80% by 2018" commitment pledge on behalf of Straub Medical Center. Joining them for the pledge signing were (from left) Tracey Hewitt, manager, Straub Oncology and Outpatient Treatment Center; Courtney Schwartz, health systems manager-hospitals, American Cancer Society; Liz Wright, director of Oncology Services, Hawai‘i Pacific Health; and Julio Zamarripa, manager, Straub Gastroenterology Clinic.