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March 9, 2011

03/10/11 Tuesday, First Lady Cheri Daniels, State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. and the Indiana Rural Health Association are asking men and women aged 50 and over to get screened for colorectal cancer.  About 1,200 Hoosiers die from colorectal cancer each year.

“Screening for colorectal cancer saves lives,” said Daniels.  “If you’re 50 or older, this message is for you.  Over time, if undetected, colorectal cancer becomes a killer.  But screening tests can find it early, when treatment is most effective.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.  Between 2004 and 2008, nearly 17,000 people in Indiana were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

“This is one cancer you can prevent,” said Dr. Larkin.  “Screening finds pre-cancerous polyps that can be removed before they turn into colorectal cancer. So, stop this disease.  See your doctor and get screened for colorectal cancer.”

Dr. Larkin says individuals younger than 50 who are at increased risk for colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor about at what age and how often they should be screened.  Risks factors include:

  • If you or a close relative has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer;
  • Having inflammatory bowel disease; or
  • Certain genetic syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.

Medicare and most insurance plans help pay for colorectal cancer screening. The public can also call 1 (800) 4-CANCER or 1 (800) ACS-2345 to learn more about screening options in their community.

The CDC monitors colorectal cancer screening rates over time through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and through the National Health Interview Survey.  Findings from these two surveys show testing among adults aged 50 or older in the United States is low.  Only about 64 percent of those eligible received screening tests for colorectal cancer within the recommended screening intervals.

The 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System showed Indiana has improved in recent years on the percentage of adults aged 50 and older who had been screened for colorectal cancer, with 40.6 percent reporting not having been screened.

“We are encouraged by the overall increase in colorectal cancer screenings in Indiana, but there is still much work to be done to increase awareness,” said Dr. Larkin.  “Too many people are dying from this preventable form of cancer.  Survival from colorectal cancer is more than 90 percent when the cancer is diagnosed before it has extended beyond the intestinal wall.”

Cancer mortality rates represent the number of new deaths of cancer per 100,000 population during the specified time period.  The state mortality (death) rate for colorectal cancer is 20.7 per 100,000 population between 1998 and 2007.  The 10 counties in Indiana with the highest mortality rates from colorectal cancer are (in order):

1.    Scott County (31.9)

2.    Cass County (28.4)

3.    Pulaski County (28.3)

4.    Martin and Switzerland counties (27.2)

6.    Perry County (26.7)

7.    Union County (26.6)

8.    Newton (25.9)

9.    Dearborn and Sullivan counties (25.5)

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  The Indiana Comprehensive Cancer Control program and the Office of Primary Care are partnering with the Indiana Rural Health Association to launch a statewide effort to encourage adults 50 and older to get screened.  As part of this effort, the Indiana State Health Department will run a media campaign in Scott County, Indiana with television, radio, and print ads produced by the CDC’s “Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Action” campaign.

“The Indiana Rural Health Association’s most important mission is to support rural health providers like the Scott Memorial Critical Access Hospital and clinics in the area who can provide life-saving screenings,” said Don Kelso, executive director of the Indiana Rural Health Association.  “We all avoid what we know we should do to keep healthy, and this is more often true if it’s difficult to find a doctor in the area.  Don’t let this be an excuse not to do what’s best for you.  Find a doctor and get screened. Prevention and wellness will be the key for truly lowering the cost of healthcare and to improve the life of our family, friends, and neighbors.”

State health officials say Scott County was chosen because it has the highest incidence rate (73.7 per 100,000 population versus the state rate of 54.5) and the highest mortality rate (31.9 per 100,000 population versus the state rate of 20.7) of colorectal cancer.  The Comprehensive Cancer Control program and the Office of Primary Care at the State Health Department are providing federal funds for the campaign.

Originally launched in March 1999, this multimedia campaign educates and informs men and women aged 50 and older about the importance of regular colorectal cancer screenings.  TV newscaster and co-founder Katie Couric, as well as actors Morgan Freeman, Terrence Howard, and Diane Keaton have served as celebrity spokespeople for the campaign.

As part of its efforts to implement the Indiana Cancer Control Plan 2010-2014, and ultimately reduce the burden of cancer in the state, the Indiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program is partnering with the Office of Primary Care at the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Rural Health Association to launch a statewide effort to encourage adults 50 and older to get screened.

The Indiana Comprehensive Cancer Program is working to reduce the burden of cancer as set forth in the state’s cancer control plan. Their charge involves:

  • Individuals preventing cancer through screening;
  • Communities supporting local resources for screening; and
  • Businesses supporting employees’ prevention efforts.

Download a copy of the Indiana Cancer Control Plan 2010-2014at and learn how you can help reduce the burden of cancer in Indiana and in your community.  For more information on colorectal cancer, visit