More than 1,300 organizations across the nation have committed to substantially reducing colorectal cancer as a major public health problem for those aged 50 and older. MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper is among them, working toward the shared goal of having 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older being regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
This “80% by 2018” initiative is led by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), which was started by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1997. The NCCRT launched the awareness campaign in 2014.
“We’re aiming to increase from about a 35 percent screening rate to 80 percent,” says Steven R. Peikin, MD, FACG, AGAF, Head of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. “It’s an ambitious goal, but one that will save a significant number of lives. Colorectal cancer is the number two cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with around 135,000 people diagnosed every year, and about 57,000 dying from advanced disease.”
In New Jersey, more than 4,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and over 1,420 will die from the disease.
“But when we screen with colonoscopy and find precancerous polyps, there’s a 100 percent chance of preventing cancer having developed in that polyp,” he continues. “And there’s a 90 percent chance of a cure when we find early cancer. Screening does save lives.”
In fact, research suggests that if the United States can achieve an 80 percent screening rate by 2018, 277,000 cases and 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths would be prevented by 2030.
Unfortunately, today, about one in three adults between 50 and 75 years of age—about 23 million Americans—are not getting tested as recommended.
“We know that men, in particular, are less likely to get screened,” notes Cooper colorectal surgeon Michael E. Kwiatt, MD. “So are Hispanics and those with lower education and income. So these populations are certainly targets for this initiative, but so are all adults between age 50 and 75.”
South Jersey community leaders came together on March 6, 2017 to announce their commitment to implement changes within their individual organizations to increase colorectal cancer screening in Camden and the surrounding area, officially kicking off the “80% by 2018” initiative in this region.
Since then, MD Anderson Cooper has been partnering with local businesses to encourage employees to undergo screening, and physicians and nurses have been participating in community events to raise awareness.
“With a team of a dozen gastroenterologists here at Cooper, we have significant capacity to handle a high volume of screening colonoscopies,” Dr. Peikin notes. “In addition, we offer other screening options including CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy), barium enema, FIT (fecal immunochemical testing) to detect occult blood in the stool, sigmoidoscopy, and DNA testing.”
Drs. Peikin and Kwiatt agree that primary care physicians play a crucial role in encouraging patients to get screened.
“They’re the ones on the frontlines who know if their patients need screening and can make the referral,” Dr. Peikin says.
“We’re confident this initiative will have a huge impact on colorectal cancer,” he adds, “and that this type of cancer will no longer be the number two cause of cancer death in the United States.”
For more information about “80% by 2018,” please email Jordan Goldberger at Goldberger-Jordan@CooperHealth.edu or call 1.855.MDA.COOPER (1.855.632.2667).