CONCORD - Five years ago this February, Merrimack’s Tracy McGraw underwent her second surgery to treat her Stage 3C colon cancer. Originally diagnosed in 2012 at only 46 years old, she knows that detection, surgery and additional treatment, saved her life.
Since her initial diagnosis, relapse, and long course of treatment, which included two major surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, she has been committed to educating and helping others find the resources they need to prevent, diagnose, treat colorectal cancer. She has been advocating with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) on state and local policies to fight cancer. McGraw recently progressed one step closer to her goal by working with Governor Chris Sununu to officially proclaim March “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” in New Hampshire. The proclamation was issued from the governor’s office earlier this month.
“Once you have cancer, you’re a cancer survivor for life. With each follow up visit, test, scan, some part of you is always waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said McGraw. “I want to do whatever I can to save others from having to go through what I did.”
“Everyone should have access to colon cancer screening and lifesaving treatment without delay or financial hardship. I am pleased that Governor Chris Sununu made this proclamation and grateful to ACS CAN for advocating for improved access to colorectal cancer screening in New Hampshire and federally,” she continued.
Almost all colon cancer begins as a polyp that can be caught early and removed through screening colonoscopy and polypectomy. In May 2018, the American Cancer Society (ACS) released a new colorectal cancer screening guideline, recommending that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) start regular screening at age 45 to save more lives. The previous recommendation was to start at age 50. The guideline was changed, based in part, on new data showing rates of colorectal cancer are increasing in younger populations. ACS updated the guideline to help find colorectal cancer early, when treatment and prevention are more likely to be successful. Those with a family history of colorectal cancer should talk to their doctors about starting screening even earlier.
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), of which ACS is part, announced a new campaign this year, 80% in Every Community, that emphasizes the commitment to reach 80% colorectal cancer screening rates nationally to save thousands of lives. The campaign also strives to pass state and federal laws that remove the barriers preventing people from getting colonoscopies and other lifesaving colorectal cancer screenings.
“The science is clear. If Americans received regular screenings for colorectal cancer, thousands of deaths could be prevented each year. But, for too many Americans, the screenings either aren't fully covered by their health insurance or aren’t affordable due to high out-of-pocket costs. It’s critical we work to change this,” said Mike Rollo, director of government relations for ACS CAN in New Hampshire.
In addition to raising awareness to colorectal cancer in New Hampshire, ACS CAN urged the state’s Congressional delegation to support the Federal “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act,” which would eliminate cost-sharing for Medicare recipients during a routine screening colonoscopy when a polyp is removed.
“Recognizing March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is an important first step – but in order to reach 80% screened in every community, we must enact policies that make screenings possible, including increasing access to healthcare for all Granite Staters and passing legislation that eliminates the risk of a surprise cost associated with routine colonoscopy for Medicare recipients,” said Rollo.
In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and in women. It is the second most common cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 101,420 new cases of colon cancer and 44,180 cases of rectal cancer in the U.S. in 2019, and that 51,020 deaths from colorectal cancer will occur in 2019. In New Hampshire, there will be an estimated 590 new cases of colorectal cancer and 200 deaths in 2019.
For more information or to find the nearest screening options, go to www.cancer.org/colon or call 1-800-227-2345.
About ACS CAN
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of nearly 2 million volunteers dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer. From breakthrough research, to free lodging near treatment, a 24/7/365 live helpline, free rides to treatment, and convening powerful activists to create awareness and impact, the Society is the only organization attacking cancer from every angle. For more information go to www.cancer.org.