W.Va. initiative to help providers detect colorectal cancer earlier

A five-year, $2.65 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will help providers in West Virginia detect colorectal cancer earlier.

The West Virginia Program to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screening (WVPICCS) will spend its first year reaching out to primary care providers to offer them a practice-change model designed to make it easier for them to identify and encourage patients eligible for colorectal cancer screening to be screened, according to a release. Staff from the WVU Medicine Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center will engage participating primary care providers in ongoing technical assistance, evaluation, professional development training and quality improvement. 

“This is a public health program aimed at increasing colorectal cancer screening in our state to 80 percent or better,” said Stephenie Kennedy, EdD, director of Cancer Prevention and Control at the WVU Cancer Center and principal investigator. “Federal statistics show that West Virginia’s colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are among the highest while the state’s overall screening rate of 63 percent is one of the lowest in the country.”

A 2013 study conducted in partnership between the American Cancer Society and the WVU College of Business and Economics looked at the economic impact of cancer in West Virginia and found that for colorectal cancer, the per-patient cost of late stage diagnosis was $284,000—more than double that of patients diagnosed at an earlier stage. The study found that 50 percent of colorectal cancer patients in West Virginia are diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease. In addition, the CDC has released data about cancer screening rates that don't meet the Healthy People goals. 

“With the CDC grant, we can really make an impact on increasing colorectal cancer screening rates around the state,” Kennedy said.  “Colorectal cancer is preventable. With early screening, we can detect precancerous lesions and stop cancer before it starts.”

“We will be very hands-on and work closely with the providers during the first year,” Mary Ellen Conn, project director of WVPICCS, said. “By the end of the second year, the participating providers will be able to implement evidence-based interventions tailored to the needs of the patients they serve in their communities.”