Making the Fight Against Colorectal Cancer a Family Affair
Olympus Reminds People During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month About the Importance of Routine Screenings and the New Recommended Screening Age of 451
Musician James Casey is sharing his story of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 38 and the importance of knowing one’s family health history as part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. (March 2, 2023) - Olympus, one of the global leaders in endoscopy, offers a reminder of how important it is to know one’s family health history in the fight against colorectal cancer, which may be preventable through a combination of awareness and routine screenings.
March marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Olympus encourages people to have conversations with family members about their health histories, including the results of colonoscopies even if those conversations may be a bit awkward.
The American Cancer Society reports that as many as 1 in 3 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC) have a family history of the disease. People with a parent, sibling or child - known as a first-degree relative - diagnosed with CRC are at an increased risk, a risk that is higher if the relative was diagnosed before the age of 50. The risk of CRC is also higher if more than one first-degree relative has been diagnosed.2
Patients who have had a larger polyp removed must remember that cancer risk can be hereditary, potentially leaving their children at higher risk, which underscores the importance of communication. Larger polyps measuring at least 1 cm are considered high risk, and patients who have had these larger polyps may be recommended to be screened more frequently.3
“Talking about one’s health can be uncomfortable even with family members,” said Dr. Toufic Kachaamy a gastroenterologist and Chief of Medicine at City of Hope, Phoenix. “But those conversations are important and potentially life-saving. We should start looking at colon cancer screenings not as an uncomfortable rite of passage but rather as an empowering opportunity to take control of one’s health. ”
Diagnoses of Younger Patients Spurs Activism and Partnership
While incidence rates have generally declined since the 1980s, CRC rates have increased 1%-2% per year in younger people since the mid-1990s, according to the American Cancer Society.4
At age 38, musician James Casey was diagnosed with Stage 3 CRC after emergency surgery for stomach pain. Following his diagnosis, the now 40-year-old learned of cancer histories on both sides of his family, including a grandfather’s diagnosis of colon cancer.
Casey has partnered with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance on its “They Didn’t Say” campaign to help raise awareness of the importance of knowing one’s family health history. Casey says it’s incumbent upon younger people to take the first step instead of waiting for family members to discuss their health histories.
“The recommended screening age is 45, but I could have gotten screened earlier had I known my family history,” Casey said. “So, ask. Go ask the questions, be proactive and be your own advocate.”
An estimated 153,000 cases of CRC will be diagnosed this year, accompanied by an estimated 52,550 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Incidence and mortality rates have generally declined over the last few decades, which the ACS attributes, in part, to an uptake in screenings that lead to earlier detection. CRC is a preventable and treatable disease with a 5-year survival rate of up to 91%, if caught at a localized stage.3
Cancer screenings in general declined during the pandemic but have begun to rebound. Colonoscopy rates increased 11% between September 2020-21 and September 2021-22. CRC awareness received a boost last September when actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney released videos chronicling their first colonoscopies as part of the “Lead From Behind” initiative.5
Doctors removed polyps during each procedure, and 36% more colonoscopy appointments were booked per day in the three weeks after the videos were released than were booked in the prior 100 days, according to ZocDoc.5
The Best Test Is the Test Taken
The best test to screen for colon cancer is the one someone is able and willing to take. Other colorectal cancer screening tests, such as the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), check for hidden blood in the stool from the lower intestines. Such a test must be done every year, and a colonoscopy will be necessary if the test returns abnormal results. 6
When considering screening options, it’s important to note that a colonoscopy is a screening test that is also preventative because it allows physicians to see and remove potentially cancerous polyps. However, colonoscopy may not be readily available to everyone, so it’s important to undergo screenings at the recommended age in whichever form is best. Individuals are encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider to identify options and find the screening that’s best for them.
Olympus understands the importance of colon cancer awareness and as such supports major national colorectal cancer organizations and initiatives as part of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, including:
- Colorectal Cancer Alliance - #theydidntsay national campaign to raise awareness about family health history and Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program.
- Colon Cancer Coalition - National presenting sponsor of “Tour de Tush” and a sponsor of “Get Your Rear in Gear.”
- Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Community Center - Funding provides a colorectal cancer awareness campaign aimed at the LGBTQ+ community to raise awareness and address healthcare disparities.
- “Bum Run Toronto” - Seat of the Matter sponsor.
- Supporting a 2021 recommendation by the United States Preventive Services Task Force to begin CRC screenings at age 45 for all individuals.
- Supporting the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to eliminate cost sharing for Medicare beneficiaries who have a colonoscopy in follow-up to a positive at-home colorectal cancer test and for Medicare to cover colonoscopies beginning at age 45.
James Casey’s music video from his first solo album, featuring artists who have all had colorectal cancer, was sponsored by Olympus.
As a leading medical technology company, Olympus delivers innovative medical technology, therapeutic intervention, and precision manufacturing used in diagnostic, therapeutic, and minimally invasive procedures. For more information, visit medical.olympusamerica.com.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, “Final Recommendation Statement, Colorectal Cancer: Screening.” May 2021
- American Cancer Society, “Cancer A-Z: Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors.” Rev. June 2020
- Turner, K.; Genta, R.; Sonnenberg, Amnon, “Lesions of All Types Exist in Colon Polyps of All Sizes,” The American Journal of Gastroenterology. February 2018
- American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts & Figures 2023”
- Zocdoc, “Zocdoc Reports: Cancer Screening and Prevention.” October 2022
- American Cancer Society, “Cancer A-Z: Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests.” Rev. June 2020