Blog: March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month! Employers can Pledge to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screenings
Since 2000, March has been designated “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.” To drive a measurable increase in screenings and reduce deaths due to colorectal cancer, employers can participate in the 80% Pledge sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. It’s a national effort to raise colorectal cancer screening rates to at least 80%.
Colorectal Cancer is preventable and treatable
Here are some facts:
- Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis and the second leading cause of cancer death in Minnesota for men and women, yet it can be prevented or detected at an early stage when it is most treatable.
- Colorectal cancer begins with a growth (a polyp) that is not yet cancer. Testing such as colonoscopy can find polyps before they become cancer. Most people who have polyps removed never get colon cancer.
- There are several screening options available including simple, at-home stool tests for those at low risk.
- Screenings cost much less than treatment, and early stage treatment costs less than late stage treatment. These costs are for medical care only and do not quantify the emotional impact of cancer on individuals and their families or lost workplace productivity.
FACT: In Minnesota, the statewide average for colorectal cancer screenings is 71%, which ranks #9 nationally.
Employers can break down barriers to screenings
It begins with understanding: How many employees/dependents are 50 or older? How many are up to date on screenings? Some employers are surprised to learn screening falls well short of the 80% goal.
Armed with this information, here are ways employers can break down the barriers to screenings:
- Reassure employees that colorectal cancer screening is of utmost importance and is a fully covered preventive care benefit.
- Some employees may avoid colonoscopy because they’ve heard the prep is unpleasant. Advances in simple, non-invasive home testing for those at low risk make it a great option for many.
- Having easy access to testing can also help increase screening rates. Employers can provide the home stool tests in combination with a flu vaccine campaign or as part of wellness fairs. Employers with onsite clinics can leverage this resource to address access issues.
- Employees may forgo a colonoscopy because they need to use vacation or PTO. Some progressive employers are beginning to offer a “day off for health,” allowing paid time away from work for necessary exams and screenings.
Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers preventable through screening, and screening can also find the disease early when it is most treatable. Nationally, colorectal cancer rates have dropped 30% over the past decade, largely due to an increase in screenings. Employers can help spread the word about the importance and ease of screening options.
Recommended reading and learning opportunities:
- Healthfinder.gov Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month employer toolkit
- Colorectal Cancer Alliance National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month news and resources
- Publicly reported screening rates in the MN Community Measurement Quality Report
- Talking Colorectal Cancer with UMN (University of Minnesota)
- American Cancer Society Colorectal cancer facts, education, and patient support resources