March may be National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but to successfully curb the burden of colorectal cancer our work needs to be focused and year-round. That’s why the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable developed an initiative called “80% by 2018.” It unites organizations across the country in the fight against this disease, challenging each to use their resources and influence to help get 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

Ambitious, but critical

Currently, over 700 organizations have signed the pledge. Whether it’s a health system proactively contacting each patient over 50 or a business providing screening information to its employees, every organization is showing its commitment to saving lives.

"Regular screening is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer."

We are making progress as a result. Each effort on its own has helped move the needle, but together we’re moving a mountain.

The importance of this campaign cannot be understated. If we can achieve 80 percent by 2018, 277,000 cases and 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths would be prevented by 2030. Regular screening is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer. If polyps are found during screening, they can often be removed before they become cancer. Screening can also detect cancer early, when it’s much easier to treat.

What can you do?

If you’re 50 or older, talk to your doctor about getting screened—sooner if you have a family history or are showing symptoms of the disease. There are simple, take home screening options available. If you’re younger, encourage your family and friends to get screened.

If you are an employer, community organization, medical practice or represent a hospital or health plan, pledge your commitment and learn what you can do to advance 80% by 2018 online. By working together, demanding more of ourselves, and collectively pushing harder toward this common goal, we will make greater progress, prevent more cancers and save more lives than we would by acting alone.