Colon cancer disparities persist

    A new report on health disparities in the U.S. shows that some gaps are widening.

    A new report on health disparities in the U.S. shows that some gaps are widening.

    Health experts have known for some time that black Americans are more likely to die from colon cancer than whites. The new National Healthcare Disparities Report from the U.S. Department of Health says that gap grew by more than one percent.

    Health officials say regular cancer screening and better access to health insurance could help reverse that trend. But Dr. Marisa Rogers says it’s hard to persuade some patients to get a colonoscopy, even if they have insurance.

    Rogers: The patient has to take off work the day of the test. The day before the test they have to drink a type of preparation to help clean out the colon and the bowels, and then they also need someone to be with them because the test requires sedation.

    Rogers is chief medical director of Spectrum Health Services, which operates two community health centers in Philadelphia. She says most Americans should begin colon screening at age 50 but some health groups suggest that African Americans get their first colonoscopy five years earlier.

    Black Americans are one and half times more likely to die from colon cancer compared to whites. Rogers says a gap in funding may be part of the problem.

    Rogers: Essentially you can get almost any woman in Philadelphia a mammogram or a Pap smear, and the follow up for those things. But with colon cancer screening if someone is uninsured you can not. There really aren’t significant community, federal or state resources to access colon cancer screening for patients who can’t otherwise afford it.

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