CCME Says Colorectal Cancer Is Preventable And Treatable

Armen Hareyan's picture
Colon cancer screening

The second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States will be receiving a lot of attention this month. Colorectal cancer, a preventable disease that continues to kill nearly 50,000 people each year according to the American Cancer Society, will be the focus of the first national “Dress in Blue Day” on Friday, March 6.

Businesses, community groups, and individuals are encouraged by the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) to wear blue and participate in the national Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month campaign in March to promote education about the disease and the importance of early screening for colorectal cancer. CCA is a national patient advocacy organization dedicated to increasing screening rates and the survivorship of people diagnosed with the disease. Colorectal cancer is second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths.

“Many people don’t realize how common colon cancer is and that it is one of the few cancers that can be prevented through screening,” said Anna Schenck, PhD, MSPH, director of research at The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME). “If colorectal cancer is found and treated at its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent. Building awareness about this disease is an important part of helping to increase screening and decrease mortality rates. Routine screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for everyone beginning at age 50, even if you have no other risk factors. Early detection saves lives!”


CCME, the Quality Improvement Organization for North and South Carolina, has been actively working with cancer prevention organizations for more than 10 years to determine colorectal cancer screening rates for people with Medicare. Under special contracts with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), CCME designed and launched the only online report of its kind in the United States that can be used to assess national and state rates for each of the four colorectal cancer screening tests: fecal occult blood tests, sigmoidoscopies, colonoscopies, and barium enemas. CCME’s unique Web reporting tool at contains test use information from Medicare claims data, 1998 through 2005. The tool provides comprehensive evidence that testing for colorectal cancer in the Medicare population is underused.

“Among the 29 million Medicare enrollees who were eligible for colorectal cancer screening in 2005, only 45 percent had evidence of the recommended colorectal cancer test,” Dr. Schenck said. “Testing rates are even lower among some groups, including African Americans and other minorities, those eligible for Medicaid, and persons eligible for Medicare because of a disability. The data contained in the web-based report have been used by CMS and the cancer prevention community to monitor progress with interventions and help develop additional programs to increase cancer screening rates. Health care providers can visit the CCME website and see county-level information on test use rates.”

CCME, with its extensive experience in developing interventions and care management tools to improve the delivery of preventive health care services, will continue to work with physicians to help them increase CRC screening rates in the Carolinas.

For more information about colorectal cancer screening and how to encourage others to raise awareness about the importance of early detection, please contact CCA at 877-422-2030, or visit For more information about CCME’s work assessing national and state screening rates for colorectal cancer, contact Dr. Schenck at 800-682-2650, ext. 2409.

The enclosed material was prepared and assembled by The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME), under contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents presented do not necessarily reflect CMS policy. 9SOW-BI-COMM-09-3