Patient Engagement

Preventable. Treatable. Beatable. — Observing Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month with CareMessage

The dynamics around colorectal cancer have changed recently, and at CareMessage, we want to help you keep up. 

Traditionally associated with older patients, organizations and providers across the country have started to rethink the age at which we should start screening for this disease. Just last year, the American College of Physicians recommended that adults with average risk factors begin their screening at 50. But a new study published in January from the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) Network suggests that screening should start even earlier

We see these changes as a good reason to set aside this National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to better understand the modern state of the disease and examine how FQHCs can best respond to the needs of our underserved communities.  

Get to Know Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer affects both men and women almost equally and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country, according to the American Cancer Society. At the same time, it’s a disease with promising survival rates — the 5-year survival rate at the local stage is 90% and at the regional stage is 71%. At the distant stage, rates drop to 14%. All of this highlights exactly why screening is so important, especially for underserved populations that face particular risk factors. 

The American Cancer Society recommends screening start at age 45, either through a stool-based test (FIT, gFOBT, or MT-sDNA), or a visual (structural) exam like a colonoscopy, colonography, or flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG). Additionally, the American College of Physicians has recently released new screening guidance that advises clinicians to select the test that best fits their patients’ needs.  

Colorectal Cancer and the Underserved

While new guidelines have been released for the general population, it’s always important that FQHCs stay aware of the nuances in risk factors and sensitivities among underserved populations. 

For example, engaging in physical activity could prevent 1 in 8 cases of colorectal cancer, so populations with high levels of inactivity (such as Latinos) stand to benefit from preventive measures and awareness of their risk factors. 

Still, even within specific demographics, there are variations to keep in mind. Puerto Rican men have higher rates of colorectal cancer risks, but at the same time, cancer rates among Hispanics tend to be 25% to 30% lower than Whites. Black men have the highest incidence of colorectal cancer overall.

FQHC Reporting Guidelines

Leadership at your organization can consider taking March as a time to review colorectal cancer screening reporting guidelines for UDS and HEDIS

Documents like this guide for screening and risk assessment workflow for NextGen users from NACHC and general information like the colorectal cancer screening page from NCQA can help ensure that you’re covering all your bases for your next UDS or HEDIS reporting period. 

As we step into Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, remember that this disease is highly preventable, treatable, and beatable. If you’d like to learn more about how an FQHC saw an almost 8% improvement in their colorectal cancer screening measures, we invite you to review this ChapCare webinar. And if you’d like to discuss how you can leverage text messaging to improve your own numbers, just fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch. 

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