According to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, a cancer survivor is “any individual who has been diagnosed with cancer and remains alive and well.” This includes patients who are currently in treatment, as well as those who have finished treatment and are considered cancer-free. With innovations in cancer research, surgical techniques and drug treatments, over 15.5 million Americans who are living today can call themselves cancer survivors.
June is National Cancer Survivor Month, and June 3, 2018 is the 31st annual National Cancer Survivor Day. Hundreds of cities around the world will celebrate National Cancer Survivor Day by bringing awareness to the victories and challenges that cancer survivors face. It is a time to applaud cancer survivors, inspire those who were recently diagnosed, gather support for families and reach out to the local community.
Although cancer rates have declined over the past decade, many more cases of cancer could be prevented. Many Americans avoid preventative cancer screenings like colonoscopies, prostate exams, mammograms, and pap tests which could detect and prevent cancer.
Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death among men and women, affecting one in every 20 individuals. Although this disease is preventable through routine colonoscopies, colon cancer survivors account for just nine percent of male cancer survivors and eight percent of female cancer survivors.
Why is colon cancer survivorship so low? Studies have identified disparities in colon cancer rates among minority groups – showing lower colon cancer screening rates and higher rates of colon cancer incidence and mortality in African Americans, individuals with disabilities and people of low socioeconomic status. Inadequate patient education, lack of access to transportation and financial challenges are just a few of the obstacles to screening.
Most adults who are at average risk for colon cancer are eligible for screening beginning at age 50, but one out of every three eligible adults is not being screened. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware that most private insurance companies and Medicare cover screening colonoscopies at 100 percent. Estimates show that if everyone who is older than 50 had a colonoscopy, 60 to 90 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented.
Colon cancer awareness and prevention is a community effort. Each of us can play a part in communicating the importance of regular screenings.
Of the colon cancer screening methods, colonoscopy is the best defense because the entire colon is inspected for polyps, ulcers, tumors or lesions. If polyps or abnormalities are found during the colonoscopy, they are removed so they cannot develop into cancer.
Today, 64 percent of all cancer survivors have survived at least five years since diagnosis, and 15 percent have lived at least 20 years since diagnosis. By 2026, the number of American cancer survivors is predicted to reach 20.3 million. During National Cancer Survivor Month, schedule your preventive screenings. Let’s keep adding more survivors to the list by encouraging family members and friends to get screened (NCSD).
Click here to learn more about our board-certified gastroenterologists and our colon cancer screening centers. Our centers offer quality-care and personal service at a lower cost than a hospital. You may be eligible for a free screening colonoscopy. Take our Free Colonoscopy Quiz and find out more details.