Colon Cancer Screenings on the Rise Thanks to Robo Calls, Patient Hand-Holding and Billboards

More and more adults over the age of 50 are getting screened for colon cancer, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report, based on a telephone survey, found that 63 percent of adults aged 50 to 75 had screening for colon cancer in 2008, up from 52 percent in 2002.

Even with the increased screening, 20 million more Americans should be tested to catch colon cancer, the CDC said. CDC officials estimate that more than 10,000 lives could be saved each year if more people were screened for the diseases.

CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said that there is a lot more progress to be made in battling colon cancer.

Colon Cancer Screening On The Rise

Colon cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. More than 50,000 people will die from the disease this year. The CDC estimates that more than half of all colon cancer deaths could be prevented if every adult older than 50 had regular testing. The hard part is getting patients in for the tests.

Colonoscopies are often seen as uncomfortable and they can be expensive. They often require that you take a day off from work.

"We think we've been able to move the needle up in an important way," Marian Krauskopf from the New York City Department of Health said.

Patient Navigators

Eighteen hospitals in New York City rely on patient navigators like Paulina Alviz who calls, educates and reassures patients all the way to the colonoscopy.

"Many times they are afraid, they don't want to go through the process," Alviz said of patients.

Without this help, 60 percent of patients were no-shows for their colonoscopy at the hospital where the program began. Since the use of patient navigators, hospitals in New York have seen less than 15 percent of patients are no shows for colonoscopies.

New York City has also seen overall colonoscopy rate jump from 42% in 2003 when the program began to 66% in 2009. The goal is to reach 80% of eligible adults screened by 2012.

Robo Calls, Colonscopy Parties

Across the country, health officials are using a variety of tools to boost screening.

In Utah, officials are bombarding residents with advertisements that promote testing. The result: the colonoscopy rate is up from 47 percent to 68 percent in just five years.

In Oregon and Washington Kaiser Permanente conducted a study to see if automated robo calls would work. They did. The calls increased colon cancer screening rates by 30 percent.

"The real message here is you can use a very inexpensive and efficient method to reach millions," Dr. Adrianne Feldstein from Kaiser Permanente said.

In Denver, Colorado, some doctors have even offered parties for female patients, offering them facials, massages and then a colonoscopy.

The CDC is eyeing these methods and others to figure out what's working best to motivate Americans to get this life saving screening.

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