DENVER, Colo. – February 27, 2020 - Colorectal cancer is now the fastest growing diagnosed cancer among young women in Colorado and the single biggest cancer killer of men under 50 nationally. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) commends members of the Colorado House of Representatives for taking the opportunity to stem the alarming rise of colorectal cancer incidence in younger age groups by lowering the screening age and ensuring coverage of preventative care for Coloradans. House Bill 20-1103 passed the Colorado House of Representatives by a vote of 52-11 on Thursday, February 27th.
Currently, Colorado law provides for preventive colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 50 for those at average risk, which fails to address a 51% increase in colorectal cancer incidence among those younger than 50 since 1994.
“House Bill 20-1103 is a simple and straightforward update to the existing law requiring insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screening in accordance with recent changes to clinical guidelines based on new evidence”, said ACS CAN Government Relations Director R.J. Ours.
“By updating the law, we can save more lives by finding colorectal cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful and by detecting and removing precancerous polyps, which contributes to the prevention of colorectal cancer,” he added.
The chances of a 45-year-old today being diagnosed with colorectal cancer are the same as they were for a 50-year-old in the early 90s.
“I was fortunate that I had symptoms, like rectal bleeding, that caused me to have a colonoscopy at 46. However, most victims of colon cancer do not have any symptoms which is why having a colonoscopy or another form of colon cancer screening starting at age 45 is so important,” said Brian Eberle, ACS CAN volunteer.
“I think there is a good likelihood that I could have developed colon cancer by the time I was 50 if I had not had my first colonoscopy at 46. I call myself a previvor, because any colon cancer was prevented when the polyp was removed during my first colonoscopy and I never had to fight the disease,” he said.
Half of all colorectal cancer diagnoses in Colorado are late stage, meaning the disease is far more difficult and expensive to treat. Late stage diagnoses among 45-49-year-olds who have no access to preventive screening is 65%. Stage IV colorectal cancer has a 10% five-year survival rate and healthcare costs are approximately five times more than early stage treatment, which has a 90% survival rate. (Typical late stage treatment costs are $618,000 per patient vs $132,000 for early stage).
“I support legislation to lower the screening age for colorectal cancer to 45 because that will help reduce the number of adults over 45 who are diagnosed with late stage cancer. If I had had my first colonoscopy earlier, my diagnosis probably would have been far different and my treatment far less costly,” said Martha Cox, ACS CAN volunteer.
Cox was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer at age 51, following her first colonoscopy. She had catastrophic health insurance but her out-of-pocket cost for her one-year treatment was still around $40,000.
The bill also seeks to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for patients undergoing preventive colonoscopies following an abnormal non-invasive screening test, such as FIT (fecal immunochemical test). FIT detects hidden blood in the stool – which can be an early sign of cancer – but a follow-up colonoscopy is necessary to remove any pre-cancerous polyps and prevent cancer from developing.
H. B. 20-1103 was introduced on January 14, 2020 by Speaker Pro Tempore Janet Buckner, (D-HD40) and Representative Perry Will (R-HD57), whose rural Health Region has the highest ratio of late stage CRC diagnoses in Colorado. Senators Rhonda Fields (D-SD29, Arapahoe County) and Kevin Priola (R-SD 25, Adams County) are the Senate sponsors.
The Colorectal Cancer Screening Bill is supported by the Colorado Cancer Coalition, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Fight CRC.
# # #
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.