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House Recognizes Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

On March 30, the House passed, by voice vote, H. Con. Res 60, a resolution supporting the observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the resolution notes that 2009 is the “tenth anniversary of the first designation of March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” and that “colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the United States [and] affects men and women equally.”

Rep. Granger said, “Ten years ago, colorectal cancer was a disease that not many people talked about. In November 1999, a resolution passed the Senate designating March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The House passed a supporting resolution in March 2000. In the years since, advocacy groups have increased awareness about colorectal cancer, and thousands of Americans have been screened. This year an estimated 149,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and an estimated 50,000 deaths will be caused by colorectal cancer. The real tragedy is that many of these cancer cases and deaths occurred needlessly because the vast majority of colorectal cancer deaths can be prevented through proper screening and early detection…Unfortunately, less than half of those who should be screened for colon cancer are screened. Not only do we need to increase awareness about colorectal cancer but we also need to increase federal funding for early detection and screening. Along with my colleague from Rhode Island, [Rep.] Patrick Kennedy [D-RI], I have introduced a bill that would authorize funding for early detection screenings and make preventive care a priority. Specifically, the Colorectal Cancer Detection, Early Detection, and Treatment Act, H.R. 1189, would establish a national screening program for colorectal cancer for individuals over 50 years of age or who are at high risk. It also authorizes state funding for those screenings and creates a public awareness and education campaign on colorectal cancer.”

Rep. Kennedy said, “This is simply a matter of public awareness. And like so many issues, it is a matter of getting the word out. Screening is what it is about. Obviously, with respect to colorectal cancer, it is the stigma. No one wants to talk about it. So as a result, no one gets screened. And when people finally get screened, it is too late and they die. That is the reason it is the second leading cause of cancer death in this country. And while the rates of death may be about the same for men and women, there is an enormous, an enormous disparity in the rates of death between minorities and whites in this country. The reason for that is that there are huge disparities in the access to health care between minority populations and the rest of the general population. And that shows among the greatest disparities in health disparity outcomes in this country. So for the African American community, this is an enormous issue, this is an enormous issue because it is affecting the death and mortality rates for the African American community and the Hispanic community over and above the general population by an enormous amount…We need to pay for screening. And, as [Rep. Granger] pointed out, the evidence backs us up. If we screen, we save Medicare money, because you can imagine trying to take care of someone with cancer is a very costly, costly thing…We have a sick care system, not a health care system. And we can do better in this country by taking care of people before they get sick if we screen them. And that is what we should do with colorectal cancer, screen people.”

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