The U.S. Multi-Society Task Force presents new rankings and emphasizes the importance of FIT testing.
Colorectal Cancer (CRC) affects more than 136,000 people every year and is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance. However, it’s also one of the most preventable forms of cancer, and, if found early, the most treatable. Colorectal tumors grow very slowly, and there are many excellent screening methods that can detect them in their early stages when treatment has a high success rate. Early detection significantly increases the chance of survival, and significantly reduces the cost and severity of treatment.
The U.S. Multi-Society Task Force, an expert panel comprised of three renowned gastroenterology groups, recently released new guidelines on colorectal cancer screening. The task force ranked tests into three tiers according to the strength of the recommendation for average-risk people.
Tier 1 includes two cornerstone tests:
- Colonoscopy every 10 years or annual fecal immunochemical testing (FIT). Colonoscopy is highly sensitive for cancer and allows a patient to be diagnosed and treated in a single session. FIT must be repeated every year, beginning at age 50 for average-risk people and 45 for African Americans, due to higher CRC incidence rates. It is non-invasive, lower cost and performs very well in preventing cancer deaths when repeated annually, according to the task force. For these reasons, FIT is an attractive option for large health plans with organized screening programs, which also have systems in place to ensure annual testing.
Tier 2 options include: CT colonography every five years
- FIT-fecal DNA every three years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five to 10 years
Tier 3 options include:
- Capsule colonoscopy every five years
Additional recommendations and guidelines can be found in the report. While these medical recommendations are clear, and the benefits of regular screening have been proven, many people avoid colonoscopies because they don’t want to go through the bowel prep, won’t make the time for the procedure, or don’t think it is important. That’s why offering more than one screening method within wellness programs and population health programs is essential. While the best CRC test is the one that gets taken, for many program administrators — and their populations — the simplest, most convenient method is FIT screening.
According to Ian Kahn, Health Systems Manager at The American Cancer Society, FIT kits are inexpensive, accurate and noninvasive. They can be completed in the privacy of your home and they don’t require any bowel prep. Additionally, the kits can be sent via mail or distributed at a screening event, making it easy to reach populations that may not otherwise have access to other types of CRC screening, such as colonoscopies.
That’s why so many of today’s population health programs rely on FIT screening to ensure good member health and close CRC care gaps. The best screening programs coordinate everything from member engagement and communications to results reporting, using a scalable technology platform to identify CRC in a covered population and connect at-risk individuals to appropriate treatment. Similarly, employers often include CRC screening within their corporate wellness programs, leveraging technology to manage their programs, simplify onsite screening events and engage their workforce.
No matter what population your screening program covers – health plan members or employees -it’s also important to remember that a healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense against CRC and other forms of cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a healthy diet reduces the risk of CRC by more than 37 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
To learn how your organization can implement a CRC screening program and improve the health of your population, contact BioIQ at (888) 818-1594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.