Last month, after repeated encouragement from my wife, I went in for my annual physical. Beforehand my doctor had me stop at the lab for blood tests which showed that my cholesterol was a bit high and the doctor gave me some dietary tips to get it in line. I did not request to have my cholesterol checked, it’s just a routine part of an annual physical. Turns out the blood tests screen for a whole host of factors that can help prevent serious health conditions from heart disease to diabetes.
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This blog was written by Advocacy Consultant Eric Hargis.[/caption]
What my blood test did not screen for is colon cancer. Unlike checking cholesterol levels, colon cancer screening today requires first that the doctor recommend it and second that the patient follow up on that recommendation; neither of these things happen consistently which is why one-third of adults over 50 have not been screened for colon cancer. Increasing the screening rate will not only save healthcare dollars, more importantly it will save lives. Data in the US Preventive Services Task Force report indicates that 22 to 24 colon cancer deaths can be prevented for every 1,000 adults who adhere to screening guidelines.
The FDA-approved Septin 9 blood test checks for the altered Septin 9 DNA which is present with colon cancer but usually not in a healthy colon. So, if every adult over 50 should be screened for colon cancer, why is the Septin 9 test not included in routine blood work? One of the main reasons it isn’t part of routine screening is it is not covered by Medicare.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to change that and require Medicare to cover FDA approved blood tests for colon cancer as it does for colonoscopy or take-home stool test. Representative Donald Payne Jr. from New Jersey, a long-time champion of colon cancer prevention, introduced House Bill 1578. As a testament to the importance of this bill, it is named in honor of his father, Donald Payne Senior, who was not screen for colon cancer and died from the disease. This is bi-partisan legislation and currently has seventeen co-sponsors.
It is important to note that the Septin 9 blood test is intended for those who have been avoiding a colonoscopy or take-home stool test. It is not for patients with a family history, previous polyps or other risk factors. There are, however, a significant number of individuals who, despite our best efforts through public health campaigns, refuse to get a colonoscopy and fail to be compliant with stool tests. The advantage of the Septin 9 blood test is it can be integrated into routine medical testing and does not require patient compliance. And as former Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh memorialized, “the best test for colon cancer is the one that actually gets done.”
The Colon Cancer Alliance is encouraging everyone who cares about colon cancer prevention to contact their representative and ask that they co-sponsor the Donald Payne Sr. Colorectal Cancer Detection Act of 2017
. You can find details at House Bill 1578
. You can make a difference in preventing colon cancer -- Speak Up and Speak Out!