The Pulse | Friday, March 22, 2019
Call to Action: 80% in Every Community
Nineteen years ago, I was a new GI nurse when President Clinton officially dedicated March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Since then, the fight to eradicate colorectal cancer (CRC) has steadily gained steam.
There are two key moments I remember from the last two decades. First, on live television, Katie Couric broadcasted her colonoscopy as an effort to encourage screening after her husband died of colon cancer. Second, in the 2000s, SGNA member Nancy Schlossberg advocated for CRC screening reimbursement. Her actions resulted in Virginia passing the country’s first legislation that mandated insurance coverage for CRC screening.
Knocking Down Barriers to CRC Screening
Over the past five years, more than 1,700 organizations, comprising the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), have committed to the shared goal of increasing colorectal screening rates to 80% for adults aged 50 and older. Overall, we are improving our efforts to bring down barriers to CRC screening, but there is still so much more to be done. An additional 5.1 million US adults ages 50-75 have been screened between 2012-2016 because of the collective action and collaborative efforts of the NCCRT’s 80% by 2018 national screening initiative. However, improvement is still needed because 38 million age appropriate Americans remain unscreened.
Screening rates are much lower for younger individuals; with less than half of people ages 50-54 having been screened. Lower CRC screening rates are also noted in rural areas, low income groups and certain racial/ethnic backgrounds, among other groups. While healthcare coverage is one barrier, improvement is needed because most unscreened people have healthcare coverage.
During the 2018 NCCRT Annual Meeting, a new campaign called “80% in Every Community” was launched by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the NCCRT (co-founded by the ACS and CDC). This initiative aims to carry on the momentum from the “80% by 2018” campaign, emphasizing evidence-based CRC screening activities tailored to individualized needs, barriers and motivations within a community. The goal is to resolve barriers allowing every community to benefit from increased CRC screening. Everyone deserves a life free from colorectal cancer!
How I Became Involved With CRC Advocacy
I feel a sense of urgency to eradicate barriers to CRC screening because I live in one of the three CRC hotspots in the United States. CRC-related deaths in Southeastern Virginia are 9% above the national average. CRC, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States in both men and women, can often be detected early or prevented through screening. In 2019, it is estimated that there will be approximately 145,000 new diagnosed cases and over 50,000 CRC related deaths.
As a Liaison of the Healthcare Policy Committee, I represented SGNA at the NCCRT annual meeting in Baltimore, MD, last year. For the last three years, I was part of the SGNA delegation to the DDNC Forum in Washington, DC. This was an opportunity to impact legislators with patients’ personal stories and healthcare providers’ “boots on the ground” experiences. I am very grateful to SGNA for providing me with opportunities and tools to hone my legislative skills so I can be a better stalwart in this crusade to end colon cancer.
Advocacy is crucial to our organization, making it our responsibility to do everything that we can to fight colorectal cancer.
Now It’s Your Turn – 9 Ways to Get Involved
Attending these meetings exposed me to a community of experts passionately fighting colorectal cancer through research, education, advocacy and awareness. I challenge you, my colleagues, to channel the same level of enthusiasm. Advocacy is crucial to our organization, making it our responsibility to do everything that we can to fight colorectal cancer. Individually, we can make a difference!
In closing, I would like to share several points that our SGNA membership can take action on to raise the bar when it comes to colorectal cancer awareness.
- Invest in your life by getting screened. A significant number of SGNA members fall within the lower end of the recommended CRC screening age spectrum. Let’s practice what we preach and get screened.
- Get informed and stay current. Did you know you can find robust information about CRC awareness on the SGNA website? Visit the Advocacy page here to learn more.
- Spread the word. Many patients and providers either don’t know or consider all options for CRC screening. Your voice can help connect them to a testing option. The best test is the test that gets done.
- Join the conversation. Utilize the power of social media in disseminating the importance of screening amongst your network of friends and acquaintances. Share your conversations with the hashtags #80ineverycommunity and #Proud2BGI on Facebook and Twitter.
- Call to action. Contact your local representatives and ask them to support the colonoscopy loophole bills(H.R. 1017/S.479 – Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2017). Apply for CRC awareness month proclamations.
- Sign the petition. Visit fightcolorectalcancer.org and sign the pledge to inform legislators that it’s time for everyone to have access to screening without any financial burden.
- Take the pledge to reach an 80% screening rate nationwide. This could be your hospital, gastroenterology specialty practice, or regional SGNA chapter. Visit nccrt.org for more information.
- Dress in Blue. A simple way of showing solidarity to the CRC awareness cause is to encourage your attendees to wear blue during your regional conference in March.
- Go to Capitol Hill and let your voice be heard. SGNA offers several scholarships annually to help defray the cost for select members who attend the DDNC Forum each spring. I highly encourage the regional SGNA chapters to offer similar scholarships.