COLUMBIA, SC – July 21, 2020 – Despite national drops in cancer mortality and incidence rates, colorectal cancer (CRC) remains the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in South Carolina. Black and Latinx communities across the state experience significantly higher rates of CRC as a result of later state diagnosis due to lower screening rates and a lack of timely follow-up of abnormal results.
Since 2008, the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Network (CCPN) at the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences has addressed disparities in CRC screening by providing awareness, education and screening resources for uninsured and underinsured individuals. Thanks to $1 million in annual state funding that has been secured as a result of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocacy efforts, this work continues to reach more South Carolianians every year.
As a result of the CCPN’s impact in the Palmetto State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently awarded the network $3.5 million to support their work in helping health systems implement evidence-based interventions that will increase CRC screening participation.
The CDC award come at a crucial time for cancer care. In March alone, the U.S.experienced a significant 86% drop in colorectal cancer screenings compared to 2017 to 2019 averages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are extremely grateful to have been selected for this prestigious award, thanks to the tirelessly efforts of our entire team and the work by ACS CAN,” shared CCPN Executive Director Annie Thibault. “Utilizing state funds and the newly awarded funds, we’re proud to be expanding our work to better address the impact of colorectal cancer in our state with a focus on addressing disparities and the impact that rurality plays on screening rates. Now more than ever, we’re working hard to ensure all South Carolinians receive adequate and timely care by primarily serving our most racially and ethinically diverse areas in both urban and rural communities.”
Prioritizing clinics and communities where colorectal cancer screening rates are low (less than 60%) and socioeconomic and demographic factors associated with high colorectal cancer rates are prevalent, CCPN strategically selected 4 federally-qualified health systems and 1 hospital system to partner in order to build a medical neighborhood that will lead to the expansion of services and tackle the structural barriers that stall screening completion or follow-up care.
“Our hospitals and health systems utilize electronic health records and specific protocol to identify people in need of screening. However, sometimes the data doesn’t provide the necessary information medical providers need to refer patients to screening or follow-up to receive a colonsopy or care following positive stool-based test,” added Thibault explaining the impact of the award. “We’re hoping to smooth that transition and move patients quickly and effectively through the system by examining internal processes and providing recommendations to ensure comprehensive protocols are in place to increase screening rates in areas of the state that need it most.”
In partnership with the American Cancer Society, the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association, and the Core for Applied Research and Evaluation at UofSC, CCPN will work to make an impact in some of the state’s most affected areas including: Williamston (screening rate 46%), Little River (screening rate 41%), and Myrtle Beach (screening rate 37%).
In 5 years, CCPN aims to significantly increase participating in screening across all partner health systems, especially in areas where CRC screening rates fall as low as 10% as well as mitigate the backlog in clinics where access to elective procedures and treatment has been difficult and delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know the best screening test is the one that actually gets done,” noted ACS CAN Government Relations Director Beth Johnson. “We’re proud to see CCPN receive the recognition they deserve and excited to see them continue to have an impact in communities across the state, especially in light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19.”
The organization is one of only 35 recipients across the nation to be selected from a large pool of applicants nationwide and the sole representative in South Carolina. To learn more about their work, click here.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.
About UofSC Colorectal Cancer Prevention Network
The mission of the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Network (CCPN) at the University of South Carolina (UofSC) is to reduce colorectal cancer through awareness, education and screening. As part of its ongoing efforts, the screening program continues to expand its reach to maximize efforts in increasing CRC screening delivery to medically underserved individuals, launch innovative initiatives that foster participation in colorectal cancer screening, reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer and also address the rise in young adult (<45yrs/age) cases of colorectal cancer.