The second most deadly form of cancer among U.S. adults is also one of the most treatable, if caught early.
However, many health care providers have struggled to improve screening rates for colon cancer. The American Cancer Society kicked off an initiative called 80 by 2018 three years ago to boost screening rates to 80 percent, but nationally, that rate has fallen short, said Letitia Thompson, vice president of Regional Cancer Control for the ACS.
Two New Orleans-area health providers, however, recently proved that reaching the 80 percent mark is possible.
NOELA, a community health center in New Orleans East, boosted its screening rates for colon cancer from 3 percent to 80 percent over the course of six years, according to Dr. Keith Winfrey, the clinic’s chief medical officer. Located in Village de l’Est, the clinic treats approximately 3,800 patients from the area. About 42 percent of those patients are 45 years old or older, falling in the recommended age groups for screening.
In 2012, the clinic discovered that only about 3 percent of eligible patients had been screened for colon cancer. Winfrey said they decided to change this, making screening a priority. They hired a “patient navigator” to remind patients when it came time for their screening, worked to educate their providers to talk to patients about the importance of screening, and organized themselves to identify and focus on patients who qualified for screening. They also provided alternative screening methods to the colonoscopy, which can be very costly.