Health officials urge screening for colorectal cancer

Health officials want Montanans over age 50 to get screened for colorectal cancer


The Department of Public Health and Human Services reports that approximately 315,000 Montanans age 50-75 should be screened for colorectal cancer.

However, about 40 percent are not currently meeting the screening recommendations.

DPHHS Director Richard Opper is urging Montanans to take action. “If you’re 50 years old or older, you need to get screened for colorectal cancer,” he said. “This is too important to ignore, and it could save your life.”

From 2009-2013, an average of 490 Montanans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 172 died of the disease each year.

According to DPHHS officials, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Montana and the United States. Yet, it’s one of the most preventable.

DPHHS is raising awareness about the importance of screening and is partnering with organizations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of  Montana to set a goal of an 80 percent screening rate by 2018. “We need to boost colorectal cancer screening rates in Montana, and by working together and educating the public about this important issue, I believe our 80 percent goal is attainable,” said Dr. Jonathan Griffin of BCBSMT.

DPHHS Cancer Control Section Supervisor Lisa Troyer said that many people who have not gotten screened may not understand the significance of the disease or believe they aren’t at risk. Troyer said that screening can detect cancer or pre-cancerous polyps before symptoms are present.

“Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it,” Troyer said. “That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.”


She said that screening and early detection can reduce the mortality from colorectal cancer by as much as 60 percent. A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms. When a person has symptoms, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause.

Colorectal cancer screening tests are covered as a preventive service under Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance benefits.


If symptoms are present, they might include —

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why.


“If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor,” Troyer said.  (


Troyer said they may be caused by something other than cancer, and the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.


Click here for a recent story of one Montanan who was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.


Click here to view a recent TV PSA that features Carroll College football coach Mike Van Diest talking about this issue.


To keep informed about this and other public health topics, consider subscribing to DPHHS Health in the 406 messages by going to


March message – Health in the 406 – Focus on the importance of Colorectal Cancer Screening


  • Approximately315,000 Montanans age 50-75 should be screened for colorectal cancer; approximately 40% are not meeting screening recommendations.
  • Colorectal cancer screening tests are coveredas a preventive service under Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance benefits.
  • There are several recommended screening test options- the best test is the one that gets done!

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