Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer, is often called a “silent killer” because its symptoms, which include stomach cramps and unintended weight loss, generally don’t appear until an advanced stage. Also, unlike other types of cancers, it’s not often talked about in social circles or the subject of large-scale fundraising campaigns, which decreases awareness and education about it. Unfortunately, colorectal cancer has emerged as one of the deadliest forms of cancer and is now the 2nd leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the United States.
The positive news is that colorectal cancer is widely considered one of the most preventable forms of cancer if detected early.
For this reason, and more, Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) is touting the importance of regular colorectal screenings. In March 2015, FHCSD began a pilot program at Chase Avenue Family Health Center to improve colorectal cancer screening rates among patients. Through the use of educational materials explaining the importance of regular screenings, pre-paid envelopes for patients to submit test samples and online messaging, the program has improved screenings by more than 13%! FHCSD is currently developing a similar program to increase colorectal screenings at all primary care clinics.
In addition, thanks to a $13 million research grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), FHCSD is partnering with San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego to help reduce healthcare disparities among Hispanic communities in regards to colorectal cancer, as well as other forms of the deadly disease. Although Hispanics are generally less likely to develop the most common forms of cancer (colon being among them), they are more likely to be diagnosed with progressive stages and less likely to survive after diagnosis due in part to lower-than-average rates of screening.
In addition to these efforts, FHCSD participated in the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and the American Cancer Society’s social campaign last month that brought together over 100 partners to send over 1.2 million social messages on the importance of screening for colon cancer. This social effort was to honor Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which is held every March. The campaign included a pledge to ensure 80% of all adults over the age of 50 are screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that those over the age of 50, as well as those who have a family history of cancer, receive annual colorectal screenings. If you fall into this risk category, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with a FHCSD provider for a colorectal screening by calling (619) 515-2300.