Featured Partner: Colorectal Cancer Program Works to Increase Screening Statewide

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths, but it's also one of the few cancers that can be prevented.  Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps, a few of which may turn into cancer over a period of 5-10 years or longer.

"By removing any polyps that are found with screening, we can reduce the chances that those polyps can later develop into colorectal cancer," said Lynn Butterly, MD, director of Colorectal Cancer Screening for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and medical Dr. Lynn Butterlydirector for the New Hampshire Colorectal Cancer Screening Program (NHCRCSP), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant program. "That's why screening is so important for this type of cancer."

NHCRCSP is working with partners across the state to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent for individuals in New Hampshire over age 50 by 2014. The latest New Hampshire Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), a telephone survey to NH households, indicates significant improvement with an increase in screening rates from 66.9% in 2006 to 74% in 2011.

Research shows that a primary care physician's recommendation is a major motivator for colorectal cancer screening. The NHCRCSP is working with 40 percent of primary care providers in NH to increase screening rates. NHCRCSP staff offer consultation and training to physicians, nurses, and office staff on how to integrate colorectal cancer screening into routine care. "One of the keys to success is identifying an internal champion at the primary care practice," says Gail Sullivan, RN, Patient Navigator for the NHCRCSP. "We work closely with our champions and train them on evidence-based practices such as patient and provider reminders, provider assessment and feedback, and the use of small media." One NH healthcare system has increased its rates from 63 to 78 percent over a four year period.  Others have seen their rates increase by 10% the first year they worked with NHCRCSP.

Through a statewide project with endoscopy sites the NHCRSP also provides free colorectal cancer screenings to uninsured low income residents; this free colonoscopy program includes patient navigation.  To date the program has performed over 1,000 screening tests with zero no shows, 98% adequate prep rate and notification of test results to all clients and their primary care providers. The CDC is assisting the program in evaluating the role patient navigation plays in achieving such remarkable success.

The NHCRCSP has also captured attention with a small media campaign that is aimed at older adults who have never been screened. In a unique collaboration, NHCRCSP is teaming up with the AARP to hand out the flyers to everyone who comes for help at their 2013 tax clinics. The flyer, which features senior citizens, was funded by the New Hampshire Comprehensive Cancer Collaboration (NH CCC).

"Colorectal cancer is a devastating disease and one that can be averted when precancerous polyps are found early through a colonoscopy," said NH's Public Health Director Dr. José Montero.  "The CRCSP has played a significant role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer in New Hampshire residents.  We are pleased at the success the CRCSP has had in increasing screening rates in our State."