WASHINGTONA triad of federal agencies has launched an educational campaign, known as Screen for Life, aimed at alerting older Americans to the importance of screening for colorectal cancer and its potential for saving lives.
Screen for Life emerged in response to two studies. An 18-year study published in March in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that annual screening with fecal occult blood tests reduced colorectal mortality by 33% and that biennial screening resulted in a 21% drop in mortality.
Data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that only 41% of Americans over age 50 are having either of the two most common screening testshome-administered blood stool tests or sigmoidoscopy/proctoscopywithin the recommended time intervals.
The good news is that we can prevent many deaths from colorectal cancer through screening, said Surgeon General David Satcher, MD.
CDC, the Health Care Financing Administration, and the National Cancer Institute are aiming their efforts at people age 50 and up because they have the greatest risk of colorectal cancer. In addition to emphasizing the benefits of catching the cancer early, the campaign will promote the fact that Medicare now covers colorectal screening.
New Medicare preventive benefits, including colorectal cancer screening, were enacted in 1997 and went into effect last year. The new campaign encourages Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of their screening benefit.
Medicare took a big step forward in covering preventive benefits, said HCFA administrator Nancy-Ann DeParle. Now, through Screen for Life, were able to promote healthy aging and help beneficiaries take an active role in their health.
The Screen for Life campaign includes public service announcements and information materials targeting Americans 50 and older. For more information, visit the Screen for Life website at www.cdc.gov/cancer/screenforlife. To order Screen for Life materials, call 1-888-842-6355.