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Addressing Health Inequities Through Colorectal Cancer Outreach

At The Association, we’re passionate about the work of our members to ensure that everyone can access quality health care. As we begin Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like to take some time to spotlight our work to ensure everyone has the tools and support they need to prevent and screen for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States. However, colorectal cancer is highly preventable and highly treatable when caught early.

The US Preventive Services Task Force found that racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities significantly impact screening rates. For example, screening rates were the lowest in populations with less than a high school degree, from low-income families, without insurance, and among Hispanic and Asian populations. To address this health inequity in rural communities, the Association has partnered with the National Cancer Institute and the University of Washington on the Colonoscopy Outreach for Rural Communities (CORC) research study.

Colonoscopy Outreach for Rural Communities

The purpose of the study is to test whether a trained patient navigator can successfully help patients to get a colonoscopy. It is led by Dr. Allison Cole, MD, MPH, a family doctor at the University of Washington, funded by the National Cancer Institute, and conducted in partnership with FQHCs and rural health systems. A total of about 480 patients are expected to participate from 6 health care organizations.

Any patients at the 6 health care organizations who are referred for a colonoscopy as part of colorectal cancer screening are eligible to participate. Half of those patients are supported by our own Patient Navigator, Yulissa Torres-Lopez. Yulissa provides bilingual navigation assistance including help understanding their results, scheduling, and preparing for their colonoscopy appointment. The other half of the participating patient group will receive an educational handout by mail or email. You can read more about the project in this article by the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association.

Staff Perspectives

Yulissa Torres-Lopez has already heard from patients that they appreciate the guidance she offers.

“I love all my patients and I enjoy helping them through their barriers and responding to questions they might have,” said Yulissa.

As a patient navigator, she has attended a colonoscopy in-person, helping her better relate to the experiences of the patients she supports.

“I think that CORC is a great study,” Yulissa said. “Most people don’t really have anyone there for guidance and that is my main role. I find it very successful when patients need my help and ask for it; it makes me feel great about the work that I am doing.”

Take Action

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re also sharing some ways you can take action to support your own health and the health of others.

  • Screen: Have you been screened for colorectal cancer? The Colorectal Cancer Alliance offers a short quiz to get personalized screening options based on your personal risk factors.

  • Advocate: Be sure to Dress in Blue on March 3rd and talk to people you meet about the importance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness. Learn more about how you can raise awareness and get digital tools to help spread the word.

  • Learn More: If you have questions about the CORC project, reach out to Hannah Stanfield, the Association’s Director of Learning & Innovation.

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