March marks National Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month. Since its inception in 2000, this month of advocacy has grown to raise awareness of CRC education, research, and preventive screening. Many essential hospitals participate in the numerous fundraising and educational activities that take place this month, but their efforts extend far beyond the campaign.
In Buffalo, New York, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) leverages funds from the American Cancer Society to enhance education, screening, and early detection for underserved patients. Through six plan-do-study-act cycles, the hospital exceeded a 70 percent CRC screening rate in nine months by introducing fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) — an effective and less-invasive screening option. ECMC also created a screening alert system within its electronic health record system and designated a patient navigator to manage FIT kit returns.
Similarly, UT Health Northeast, in Tyler, Texas, operates the Colorectal Cancer Screening Project across seven counties. Funded by the Cancer Prevention Institute of Texas, this project works in tandem with the state’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program goals of improving population health. The program reaches out to the target population, raising awareness about CRC screening and increasing access to FIT and colonoscopy screening services. In the past two years, more than 3,700 individuals have been screened, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured.
Programs like these are critical for targeting the most at-risk group — people over 50 — for CRC education and screening. However, other risk factors might put younger people at risk for CRC, as well.
Through the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and the Ohio State University (OSU) Comprehensive Cancer Center identify patients with Lynch Syndrome, a hereditary condition that greatly increases an individual’s risk for CRC and other cancers. In addition to genetic testing for CRC patients and their families, the program promotes adherence to appropriate cancer screening and prevention strategies. OSU predicts the program will save 639 years of life among Ohioans and avert $8.3 million in costs due to prevented cancers.
While National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is coming to a close, essential hospitals will continue this important work year-round. These examples offer just a glimpse into their persistent work to keep CRC prevention in the spotlight and provide lifesaving services to the nation’s most vulnerable patients.