Screening Can Prevent More Than 90 Percent of Colon Cancer Cases. So Why Are Only 63 Percent of Americans Having Colonoscopies?

SEATTLE — March 11, 2014 — Colon cancer will take more than 50,000 American lives in 2014 making it the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Yet more than 90 percent of colon cancer cases can be prevented by screening. So why have only 63 percent of Americans aged 50 to 75 been screened for colon cancer?

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) experts are committed to reducing the number of colon cancer deaths each year and have developed a helpful tool to simplify colon cancer prevention and screening guidelines. The ‘This One Thing Could Save Your Life’ infographic provides risk factors and screening recommendations, as well as information to help reduce the fear associated with colonoscopies.

The infographic is available on SCCA’s website at and can also be shared across social networks to help raise awareness with friends and family.

Following guidelines from the American Cancer Society, SCCA recommends men and women have regular colon cancer screenings beginning at age 50. Screening tests allow doctors to spot cancer in the colon or rectum at an early stage, when it’s easier to cure. Regular exams also help prevent cancer by finding polyps or lesions that can be removed before they become cancerous. This lifesaving procedure can often be done during the colonoscopy screening.

“Colon cancer screening is proven to save lives,” said Dr. John Inadomi, colon cancer gastroenterologist at SCCA and head of the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Washington. “Considering up to 90 percent of cases are preventable, it is essential that all men and women starting at age 50 be screened regularly.”

Who Should Get Screened?

  • Beginning at age 50: Annual check-ups and screenings are the best line of defense in terms of early detection. SCCA recommends men and women get a colonoscopy every ten years beginning at age 50.
  • Men and women who believe they are at high risk: SCCA recommends those who believe they are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer talk to their doctor about their risk factors and screening recommendations. Colon cancer risk factors include:
    • A first-degree relative with colon cancer
    • Smoking
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • A diet high in red or processed meats and low in fruits and vegetables
    • A history of ovarian or endometrial cancer (among women)

The Colonoscopy, A Misunderstood Procedure
The colonoscopy is often misunderstood and is in fact a simple and painless procedure.  However, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance, a patient advocacy group, the main reason people skip getting screened is a fear of prepping for the procedure, the screening process itself, and receiving test results. It is important people recognize that colon cancer may not present any signs or symptoms until the disease is advanced. Regular colon cancer screening can help save 30,000 lives every year. So what does the screening process entail?

  • The day before the exam: Patients are asked to follow a clear liquid diet and take laxatives to help clean the bowels.
  • During the procedure: Light sedation is provided to patients prior to the procedure to avoid any discomfort. During the 30 minute exam, polyps or lesions are removed, without the need for additional procedures.
  • After the procedure: Patients may experience mild cramping or bloating that generally subsides within 24 hours.

Media Contact:
Fred Hutch Media Team