According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women – but it’s also one of the most preventable. “Screening can prevent CRC or catch it early when it’s highly curable – improving the patient’s prognosis, and greatly reducing healthcare costs and missed days of work,” said Ian Kahn, a Health Systems Manager for the American Cancer Society (ACS). If CRC is found in the early stages, there’s a 90-percent, five-year survival rate. This illustrates the benefits of screenings – they educate people, connect them with next steps in care if test results are positive, and they have the potential to save lives. And they save employers money – the average one-year cost of treatment for an employee with late-stage colon cancer can be over $310,000.

As part of its mission to eliminate cancer as a major health problem, ACS works with employers by providing educational materials, screening guidelines, toolkits and evidence-based interventions that help improve CRC screening rates. For employers wondering how to get started, Kahn says the first step is signing the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s (NCCRT) 80% by 2018 pledge, which represents a commitment to increasing the number of people screened for CRC. If the NCCRT’s goal is met by 2018, estimates indicate that 277,000 fewer people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 203,000 lives will be saved by 2030.

Last year, Kahn’s ACS counterparts in Missouri helped a technology company implement a successful CRC education and awareness program for its employees. After completing ACS’s workplace wellness assessment, the company’s HR team worked with Kahn’s colleagues to identify areas to improve employee engagement in its health screening program– one of them being communication. As a next step, the HR team incorporated targeted, consistent messaging to employees at onsite health centers and the company’s Facebook page, reinforcing that the best screening test is the one that gets done. “There’s a major advantage for employers in partnering with an outside organization like ACS when launching a CRC awareness program. It can seem like a daunting process, but with the right support and training, employers can help make 80% by 2018 a reality,” says Kahn.

In an exclusive Q&A, Kahn discusses the importance of early detection for both employers and employees, recommendations for breaking down common barriers to CRC screening, and which testing methods the ACS recommends.

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