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Free Colonoscopies for Uninsured Patients

During these last few days of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, you have a unique opportunity to get screened for colorectal cancer and possibly for free, as part of a program available just once a year, only available this year during the month of March.

To make this free colorectal cancer screening possible, the CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Programs (CRCCP) and gastroenterologists with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) are joining efforts to offer colorectal cancer screening services – that’s free colonoscopies. It’s available to qualified uninsured patients who may otherwise not be in a position to get this lifesaving test.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, responsible for more than 50,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. With roughly 140,000 Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer annually, this free colorectal cancer screening offer is likely a life-saving opportunity.

What are the risk factors for colon cancer?

The first risk factor for colorectal cancer is age; colorectal cancer rarely occurs before age 50. Other than age, you may be at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer if you have any of following:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • A personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Genetic syndromes, like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)

If you think you may be at high risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested. Do not wait for symptoms to develop; colorectal cancer screening tests should be done to look for the disease before a person is experiencing any symptoms.

The right time of life to begin screening for colorectal cancer is age 50. You should keep getting screened regularly until the age of 75, and then ask your doctor if you should be screened if you’re older than 75.

Colorectal cancer screening saves lives

Often colon cancer screening tests are able detect potentially carcinogenic polyps in the colon or rectum before they have a chance to turn into cancer.

Doctors believe that if everyone 50 years of age and older were screened regularly for colorectal cancer, the death toll from this dangerous illness could be slashed by as much as 60 percent. That’s as many as 30,000 lives saved every year in the U.S. with increased screening for colorectal cancer. There are several types of colorectal cancer screening recommended. The three most common:

  • Colonoscopy – Generally performed once every 10 years beginning at age 50, in which a doctor uses a thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon.
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) – Usually performed every year after age 50. Your doctor gives you a test kit to take home, which you use to obtain a small amount of stool, and then return the test kit so that your stool sample can be checked for the presence of blood – a possible sign of trouble.
  • Sigmoidoscopy – Usually performed once every five years, the doctor inserts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum to look for polyps or cancer.

While colonoscopies are the most well known of the colorectal cancer screening methods, talk with your doctor about other colorectal cancer screening options and timing for each.

Where to get the free colorectal cancer screening

While this fairly new initiative is growing, the free colorectal cancer screening program is not yet available in all states. Presently, more than 25 physicians are participating, donating their time and skills to screen patients who otherwise would likely go unchecked for colorectal cancer in the following states:

  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington

The AGA offers a GI Locator Service at

Other solutions for low-cost or no-cost colorectal cancer screening

Even if you miss the free colonoscopies being offered this month, CDC's Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP) provides funding year round to 25 CRCCP-funded states and four tribes across the United States. The program provides colorectal cancer screening services and diagnostic follow-up to low-income men and women aged 50–64 years who are underinsured or uninsured for screenings, when no other insurance is available.

If you are not eligible for the program, or live outside a CRCCP-funded state, you should call 1 (800) 4-CANCER or call your local department of health to ask about other colorectal cancer screening options that may be available locally in your community.

For more information, go to https://https://

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