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Celebrating the beginning of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Colorado Cancer Coalition is headed for the state Capitol on March 2.

Colorectal Cancer Advocates Heading to State Capitol to Celebrate Wins, Highlight Need for More Funding 

The Colorado Cancer Coalition is leading the charge for an event that includes CU Cancer Center members and programs. 

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Written by Greg Glasgow on February 23, 2022

Celebrating the beginning of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, the Colorado Cancer Coalition (CCC) is headed for the state Capitol at noon on March 2 to celebrate recent federal policy changes that make it easier for people to get screened for the deadly disease.

The nonprofit CCC is a partner organization of and shares leaders with the University of Colorado Cancer Center, including CCC past-chair Andrea (Andi) Dwyer, director of the Colorado Cancer Screening Program at the CU Cancer Center, and incoming CCC chair Anosheh Afghahi, MD, a CU Cancer Center member and assistant professor of medical oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine

At the Capitol, CCC members will read a statement before the Colorado Senate and House of Representatives hailing policy changes including lowering of the recommended colorectal cancer screening age to 45 from 50, and recent guidance from the Biden administration instructing health insurers to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for a follow-up colonoscopy for those who have a positive stool-based screening. 

“Let's say you were getting screened for colorectal cancer, and you opted to use a stool-based test, and it came back positive. A lot of insurance companies were charging out-of-pocket expenses for those follow-up colonoscopies, considering then diagnostic rather than preventive,” Dwyer explains. “That would sometimes cost hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket. We know that 4% to 8% of the population need a follow-up after a stool-based test, and that is supposed to be part of the preventive cycle.” 

More good news about colorectal cancer 

Other recent positive news around the disease includes increased prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer being highlighted in the American Cancer Society’s recent report showing a 32% drop in U.S. cancer deaths since 1991, as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services adding colorectal cancer screening as a quality measure for Medicaid, focusing on the percentage of patients 50 to 75 years of age who get appropriate screening for the disease. 

“This means they will now monitor to what degree screening is happening, and the quality, at Medicaid-funded institutions,” Dwyer says. “Essentially, the systems are going to start getting graded on that, and that's going to show up in their quality indicators. It means more people who qualify for Medicaid are going to get better services.” 

The CCC statement also recognizes the work of such partners as Fight Colorectal Cancer, the American Cancer Society, and the Colorado Cancer Screening Program, a CU Cancer Center initiative that exists to help patients — most of them low-income and many of them Spanish-speaking-preferred — through the process of getting colonoscopies or endoscopies, as well as any follow-up care they may need. 

“The Colorado Cancer Screening Program is particularly invested in ensuring resources are dedicated to underserved and high-need communities, such as rural and frontier areas, African American, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities, and the growing number of young people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” Dwyer says. 

Work to be done 

As positive as much of the news around colorectal cancer is, Dwyer says, the fact remains that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S. and is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death in 2030 for those 20–49 years old. As part of its appearance at the Capitol, the CCC will urge lawmakers to find more funding for colorectal cancer screening, prevention, and treatment, particularly in rural counties and in communities of color. 

“The fact that we got rid of the out-of-pocket component around follow-up colonoscopies, the fact that Medicaid is using screenings as a measure — those are great wins, but let's keep the momentum,” Dwyer says. “Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, and it's the only one that's truly preventable. Part of our message is, ‘We've got some work to do.’ We have a great team that's doing amazing things, we're a national leader in this effort, but we’ve got to keep going.” 

All members of the CU Anschutz community are invited to join the CCC at the Capitol on March 2; email Andrea Dwyer for more information or RSVP on the CCC website. The event also will be livestreamed on the Colorado Channel; click here to watch live.