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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

March 15, 2013
Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
              Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

DPHHS urges Montanans over age 50 to be screened for colorectal cancer

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials are urging Montanans age 50 and older to be screened for colorectal cancer.

Every year, 500 Montanans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and of those about 90 percent are over 50 years old.

If everyone who is 50 years old or older were screened regularly, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided, said DPHHS Director Richard Opper.  About 180 Montanans die of the disease annually.

“Colorectal cancer screening saves lives,” Opper said. “Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some are used alone; others are used in combination with each other. I encourage Montanans to talk with their doctor about this issue.”
Screening can find pre-cancerous polyps (abnormal growths) that may be removed before turning into cancer.  Screening can also find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is the most effective, said Kathy Myers of the DPHHS Cancer Control Programs.

The risk of having colorectal cancer increases with age. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines or are using their health insurance benefits.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends these tests to screen for colorectal cancer:

  • An annual stool test, either high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
  • Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years)
  • Colonoscopy (every 10 years)

Even though the proportion of Montana adults aged 50 years or older who report having ever had a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy has increased in recent years, nearly 1 in 3 Montanans in this age group still have never had this exam, Myers said.

The following are a few suggestions on how to pay for screening tests:

  • Many insurance plans and Medicaid and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening. Check with your plan to find out which tests are covered. To find out about Medicaid coverage, call the Medicaid Help Line at 1-800-362-8312. To find out about Medicare coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
  • Montana Cancer Control Programs provide access to colorectal cancer screening to low-income, underinsured, or uninsured men and women aged 50-64. 

For more information call (800) 803-9343 or visit www.cancer.mt.gov
For more national information visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/colorectalawareness/

Page last updated: 03/15/2013