A commonly held view is that colon cancer screening is embarrassing, even disgusting. Talk of bowel movements, laxatives and enemas offends people. So, how successful has the medical establishment been in recent years in overcoming this cultural bias?
As recently as 2000 national surveys suggested that fewer than fifty percent of United States adults over the age of fifty were undergoing any kind of colorectal cancer screening. The highest compliance rate reported was from the Kaiser Permanente Plan in California, whose doctors are scored on the quality of the care they deliver. In their hands about sixty percent of their patients had some sort of screening event, usually fecal occult blood testing (FOBT, the three-card test on stool). A much smaller percentage had any kind of invasive procedure such as barium enema or colonoscopy even though these tests are much more accurate than FOBT. Nationally the numbers were lower.
Ever since Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy on national television, the colorectal community – gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons and oncologists – has pushed to bring screening to the forefront. For over a decade March has been dedicated to increasing public interest in colon cancer screening.