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Pathways to Discovery: Summer 2012

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UChicago Medicine Joins Statewide Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative

The University of Chicago (UChicago) Medicine and The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) have partnered with the American Cancer Society (ACS) Illinois Division to launch a statewide initiative to increase colorectal cancer screenings for the at-risk population.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, yet it remains the third most common and second deadliest cancer in the U.S. In 2010, only 60% of Illinoisans 50 and older were screened for colorectal cancer. Among minority populations, screening rates are even lower.

“Many people who can benefit from colorectal cancer screening fail to get screened; this is particularly the case among minority populations who may be challenged by numerous barriers including access, language, and fear,” said Karen E. Kim, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine and director of the UCCCC’s Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities.

Screening Saves Lives
The overarching objective of the program is to increase colorectal cancer screening in Illinois and to reduce the morbidity and mortality from this often preventable disease. A similar program in New York City improved its population screening rates from 60% to 90%.

UChicago Medicine is one of five academic centers and hospitals in Illinois that have agreed to support this initiative, joined by Rush University Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Southern Illinois University, and Southern Illinois Healthcare. The ACS expects to recruit 15-20 additional hospitals to provide coverage to people across the state of Illinois.

Through increasing education about colorectal cancer and increasing screening capacity, UChicago Medicine will provide new colonoscopy access to Chicago’s uninsured Southside residents, which include the African American and Asian American communities.

The program builds on UChicago Medicine’s existing partnerships with the surrounding communities to refer patients who could benefit from increased education and access to care.

“If we can improve screening rates, we should be able to reduce the mortality from colon cancer for all populations in the state of Illinois,” said Dr. Kim. “We are really excited to be a part of this concerted effort.”

Ernst Lengyel