Effective Screening for Colorectal Cancer Saves Lives
By Daniel Castillo, MD, MBA
Jen, a Matrix Nurse Practitioner, recently shared the following story with me:
John (name changed for privacy), a member who had received a Matrix in-home assessment the previous year, hugged me. I was a bit surprised but before I could say “Hi”, he told me the story of what led to that hug. The previous year, as part of his health assessment, I had discussed the importance of colon cancer screening and left a fecal occult stool test kit with him. After his screening test had come back positive, his primary care doctor gave him a referral for a follow up colonoscopy, which revealed a precancerous lesion that was successfully removed. He was told by his doctor that the early screening test that led to the colonoscopy likely saved his life. His hug was his way of saying “thank you”.
I wanted to share John’s story today since March is designated as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. The focus on awareness points to the importance of appropriate education to help individuals overcome barriers on getting screened for colorectal cancer (CRC). There are various risk factors that contribute to the incidence of developing CRC like being age 50 and older, having a first degree relative that’s had colorectal cancer and smoking (for a full list of risk factors, please visit the American Cancer Society website). Screening, which has been shown to have decreased the incidence of colorectal cancer over the last few years is critically important since the disease still affects approximately 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women, meaning that most people’s lives will at some point be touched by this disease.1
As with John’s story above, the goal of screening is for the early detection and effective treatment of CRC before it is too late.
Despite the improvements, screening rates still can increase, with only 50 percent of eligible populations currently participating. Colonoscopy has long been the standard methodology for CRC screening, but the required test preparation, test anxiety and costs for the test itself have been barriers for some populations.2
Several other effective screening methods are now available that require no test preparation or dietary restrictions. These tests include stool-based blood detection and DNA tests which can be done by the individual in their home. If abnormal results are detected during the stool based screenings, a follow-up colonoscopy will be performed. Strong evidence indicates that less-invasive screening options have been effective in boosting screening rates.
Matrix Medical Network (Matrix) offers stool-based blood detection as part of our comprehensive health assessment. Matrix receives data files from health plans that identifies members that might not have the recommended CRC screening. Our nurse practitioners educate the members on the importance of the tests and will deliver the results directly to the member’s primary care provider.
Screening for CRC may uncover a life threatening disease when it can still be effectively treated. Matrix works together with health plans, providers and most importantly members to drive an increase in appropriate CRC screening, which can save lives. Just ask John.
Contact us today to learn more about how Matrix CRC screening can help improve members health and wellness.
1 American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2019.
2 The Importance of Colorectal Cancer Screening. Retrieved March 9, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365838/