All throughout the month of February we celebrate Black History Month. This annual observance is a time to honor and celebrate the contributions of African Americans throughout our nation’s history. It is also a time to reflect on the progress we have made in terms of equality and focus on ways we can continue to improve. And when it comes to health care, this means drawing awareness to the need for early colon cancer screening in African Americans.
Colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the United States, and African Americans are at higher risk than any other population group. Research from the American Cancer Society shows that African Americans have the highest rate of colon cancer incidence, and death rates are 45 percent higher in African Americans than Caucasians. The cause behind this disparity is not completely understood, though experts believe that access to health care and early screening are largely responsible. Studies have shown that African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer when it has reached advanced stages and is harder to treat (Source: Exact Sciences).
So what is the answer? Get screened early, and get screened regularly!
A screening colonoscopy is the best tool for preventing colon cancer because polyps can be detected and removed before they have the opportunity to become cancerous. The American Cancer Society recommends baseline colon screening at the age of 50 for people of average risk. But because African Americans are considered high risk, many experts recommend screening at the age of 45.
Cost is obviously a concern for many individuals, but under the Affordable Care Act, your screening colonoscopy could be low-cost or entirely free. And let’s be honest; when your health is on the line, this is one test you can’t afford to skip! If you’ve been avoiding your screening colonoscopy, now is the time to put away all excuses and schedule an appointment with your doctor. It’s a decision that could save your life.