Effort to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screenings Among Hispanics

Jefferson researchers picked for funding to lead a study seeking to counter colorectal cancer screening health disparities

Ronald E. Myers, PhD

Ronald E. Myers, PhD

A Thomas Jefferson University led research team has been approved to receive for a $1.7 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to support a study intended to increase cancer screening in the Hispanic population.

Researchers estimate that roughly one in 20 people in the U.S. will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetimes. Each year more than 140,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die of the disease, according to American Cancer Society estimates. .

Colorectal cancer screening can prevent the disease and find the cancer at earlier stages when  chances of successful treatment are higher.

Although colorectal cancer screening rates are increasing in the general population of men and women who are 50 or more years of age, rates remain low among Hispanics. As a result, Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with later stage disease.

Using the funding from the award, Jefferson researcher Ronald E. Myers, PhD, a professor in the Department of Medical Oncology, in collaboration with Lehigh Valley Health Network, and members of the Hispanic community, will work together to test a novel intervention to engage the population in screening.

The researchers will randomly assign Hispanic study participants to a group that receives a standard informational booklet that provides information about colorectal cancer screening versus a group that receives the booklet plus a phone call from a trained patient navigator.

The navigator will use an online Decision Counseling Program© to elicit factors that are likely to influence the participant to or not to screen, and will help the participant develop and implement a personalized colorectal cancer screening plan. Feedback on the participant’s screening plan and screening status will be provided to his/her primary care physician for inclusion in the medical record.

One benefit of the program, says Myers, is that the navigator can complete the program over the phone in Spanish, thereby reaching patients who may not regularly see a primary care physician. The navigator will also help obtain any referrals that may be needed, if the patient decides on colonoscopy. Furthermore, the navigator can make sure that patients with abnormal screening results receive complete diagnostic follow up.

This year, PCORI awarded $191 million to 82 projects supporting new methods to help patients and doctors make more-informed choices about their care. The award has been approved pending a programmatic review by PCORI staff and completion of a formal contract.

“This research,” says Dr. Myers, “can have a real and immediate impact decreasing disparities that currently exist in colorectal cancer screening and mortality,” he says.

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