More than 76% of adults in New York state aged 50 to 70 are getting their recommended screening for colorectal cancer, according to health tracking data compiled by New York State and reviewed by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. That’s up about 10 percentage points from 2016.

Nicholas Massa, MD, CPC

Nicholas Massa, MD, CPC

“The state is closing in on its goal of 80% by 2023 for colorectal cancer screening as outlined in the New York State Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan 2018-2023,” says Nicholas Massa, MD, CPC, vice president medical affairs, clinical services at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Still, one in four adults is not getting their recommended colorectal cancer screening, which leaves them at risk for developing this form of cancer and allowing it to progress.”

Colorectal cancer is among the leading causes of cancer deaths in New York state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). In 2019, the latest year for which incidence data are available, there were 8,918 new cases reported in New York state and 2,844 deaths from the disease. Nationwide that same year, there were 142,462 new cases reported and 51,896 deaths.

“We know that screening saves lives,” says Massa. “I’d like to see 100% compliance with the screening recommendations.”

While New York state traditionally tracks screening data for adults aged 50 to 70, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends average-risk adults ages 45 to 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Individuals who have risk factors, including a family history of colon cancer or previous polyps, may need to have their first screening at a younger age, and/or more frequently.

When found at an early stage before the disease has spread, the 5-year relative survival rate for colorectal cancer is about 90%, but only about 4 out of 10 cases are diagnosed at an early stage. When the cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum, the survival rate is lower.

“Ask your health care provider about when, and how, you should be screened for colorectal cancer,” advises Massa. Methods of screening for the disease—colonoscopy, the flexible sigmoidoscopy, and CT colonography—are conducted by a physician in a medical office or hospital. There are some at-home options, if deemed appropriate by an individual’s physician. At-home screening includes the take-home high sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), and the multitarget stool DNA test (FIT-DNA).

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society offers a free online library of information on the disease at