Area health systems join national push for higher colorectal cancer screening rates

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NORFOLK – Hampton Roads’ healthcare systems are supporting a national initiative to get U.S. adults aged 50 and older screened for colorectal cancer.

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System CEO Michael Kerner signed a pledge last week in support of the initiative, which aims to get 80 percent of those adults screened for the cancer by 2018. The initiative is led by the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. when men and women are combined; nearly 135,000 adults are diagnosed with it annually, according to the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable.

About two-thirds of adults 50 and older get the screening, according to the roundtable. If the “80 percent by 2018” goal is achieved nationwide, it is estimated that 277,000 cases and 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths would be prevented by 2030, according to the roundtable.

The initiative’s vision statement says the members who sign on believe “we can substantially reduce colorectal cancer as a major public health problem.” It continues:

“We have screening technologies that work, the national capacity to apply these technologies, and effective local models for delivering the continuum of care in a more organized fashion. Equal access to care is everyone’s responsibility. We share a commitment to eliminating disparities in access to care. As such, our organizations will work to empower communities, patients, providers, community health centers, health systems, health plans and other partners to embrace these models and develop the partnerships needed to deliver coordinated, quality colorectal cancer screening and follow up care that engages the patient and empowers them to complete needed care from screening through treatment and long-term follow-up.”

The Sentara Cancer NetworkChesapeake Regional Medical Center and Riverside Health System have also joined the effort, as have a number of other groups and providers in the region.

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System CEO Michael K. Kerner and members of the Bon Secours leadership team, medical group and care team, along with the American Cancer Society and local gastroenterology groups, gathered June 10 to sign the “80 percent by 2018” pledge. (Courtesy photo)

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System CEO Michael K. Kerner and members of the Bon Secours leadership team, medical group and care team, along with the American Cancer Society and local gastroenterology groups, gathered June 10 to sign the “80 percent by 2018” pledge. (Courtesy photo)

At Bon Secours, a large part of the commitment will involve continued and increased educational efforts, both for its providers to help them identity people who have not been properly screened, and for the public, said Marylou Anton, the health system’s administrative director of oncology services.

Its tools include an online risk assessment that will lead to live follow-up, Anton said. Other efforts involve a five-year, $161,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Health to increase awareness of colorectal cancer and the screening options, which include non-invasive tests.

“Our hope is that we will be able to reach as many patients as possible through a number of venues,” Anton said.

Bon Secours is also looking into grants to help them reach more underserved people with its Care-A-Van, she said.

The screening rate for adults 50 and older in Virginia is 70 percent, but that rates is likely lower than that in Hampton Roads, since parts of the region are considered a hot spot for high colorectal cancer rates, said Lynne Zultanky, a Bon Secours spokeswoman.

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