Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin received a $2.3 million grant to fund a new community-wide project that will increase colorectal cancer screenings, according to a news release from the school.
The school says the new program, funded by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, addresses unmet needs seen throughout Travis County.
Although colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, only 35 percent of Travis County residents with limited access to care receive routine screening, according to the news release. Waits for colonoscopy screenings can be up to six months for people with low incomes or without insurance.
“We’ve made tremendous advances in colon cancer over the past 20 years, and it’s been a very collaborative and gratifying effort,” Dr. Michael Pignone, project leader, said in the news release. “But we have a large population of people who have not benefitted from that yet. This project will allow us to work on a larger solution for those who haven’t had access to that level of care.”
The project will first work with only patients served through the CommUnityCare collaborative, Central Texas’ largest FQHC network.
Pignone’s team plans to mail fecal immunochemical tests to about 13,000 patients who are not up to date with screening. These tests screen for small amounts of blood in the stool, an early sign of colon cancer. Recipients who choose to complete the screening will mail the test back for analysis, free of charge, according to the news release.
When the test is positive, “patient navigators” will follow up with patients to help them get scheduled for and complete follow-up colonoscopies, which can detect and remove pre-cancerous polyps and can help prevent cancer from developing, according to the news release. The grant also provides funding for the colonoscopies.
The project also will create a list of patients who require follow-up colonoscopies after polyp removal. The news release said the list will allow health care providers to remind those at-risk for colorectal cancer to have regular follow-up care and help work down the backlog of patients waiting for testing.