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Screening Increases Life Expectancy

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Screening for colorectal cancer increases life expectancy. A recent report says that an analysis of the effects of colorectal cancer screening show increased life expectancies in those who undergo the screenings on a regular basis. Researchers at the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, used a data analysis model known to measure the impact of such screening and found that annual blood stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy resulted in decreased mortality levels of 18%, 30%, and 59% respectively. Researchers note that colorectal cancer is the second leadings cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., killing approximately 55,000 people per year.

The findings were presented at the 62nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Chicago (November, 1997).

Colon Cancer Screening Rates Still Low

February 19, 1999
Web posted at: 8:22 a.m. EST (1322 GMT)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Too few Americans age 50 and older are regularly screened for colorectal cancer, the nation's second-leading cause of cancer deaths, according to a new government study.

The low screening rates come despite the availability of home tests for blood in stool samples and increasing insurance coverage of some types of colon exams, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

"We're not seeing much of an improvement in screening rates," said Dr. Laura Seeff of the CDC. "It's increased by 2 percent at the most over the last year."

Cancer of the colon and rectum is expected to strike 129,400 people in the United States this year and kill 56,600. More than 90 percent of those stricken are 50 and over.

Many medical experts recommend that men and women age 50 and older get some type of colon exam every five years. It's also recommended that they get an annual test for blood in the stool. This can be done with a simple, at-home test.

In a 1997 survey of 52,754 people 50 and up, only 30.4 percent reported having had a sigmoidoscopy -- a type of colon exam -- within the previous five years, and only 19.8 percent had been tested for blood in their stool in the preceding year, the CDC said.

Overall, 41 percent reported having one of the tests within the recommended time intervals.

A sigmoidoscopy is where a tube threaded into the rectum checks just the lower half of the colon for polyps or cancer.

Tests that can detect the disease early could cut deaths by as much as a third, Seeff said. Medicare coverage was expanded last year to include colorectal screenings, and most health insurance providers also cover them.

The CDC said patients may not be aware of the recommendations or are afraid of the discomfort and embarrassment, and that doctors share some of the blame.

"It's not a subject people are comfortable speaking about, so patients aren't bringing it up to their physicians, and physicians aren't talking about it either," Seeff said.

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