Grant will help Presence Saint Francis Hospital promote colonoscopy

September 15, 2013

Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, Ill., is launching a campaign using $300,000 in grant money to encourage people to get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50. The move comes after staff determined many patients were waiting until late in life for their initial colonoscopy.

Through the Community Cancer Screening program, a new nurse navigator and other Presence Saint Francis staff will educate community members about the need to have a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50, the protocol recommended by the American Cancer Society. The hospital developed the campaign in response to a four-year study of Presence Saint Francis patients that found that the largest group — 28 percent — was coming in for their first colon cancer screening in their 80s. This compares with about 20 percent of first-timers in their 80s nationally.

The study also found that screened patients had high rates of later-stage cancer. Colon cancer is highly curable if caught in an early stage, and so screening people earlier in life can improve their prognosis, explained Angelique Richard, Presence Saint Francis vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer.

The $300,000 grant is from Chicago-based S & C Electric Co. In addition to expanding the reach of Presence Saint Francis' colon cancer community education iniative, the grant will be used to increase the involvement of a nurse navigator in cancer screenings. Studies show it is common for people to schedule a colonoscopy but not show up. Presence Saint Francis' nurse navigator will make and maintain contact with patients, encouraging them to keep their appointments for screenings and to follow up on results. The nurse will offer help with transportation and financial assistance, if those are barriers to screening.

The nurse navigator and other staff also will ask Evanston-area primary care physicians to refer patients at risk for colon cancer for screenings. People with a family history of colon cancer, Latinos and African-Americans are at particular risk for colon cancer. According to Richard, the uninsured are vulnerable because they often can't afford screenings to detect early stage cancer, or precancerous conditions.

The grant also will support efforts by the nurse navigator and other staff to teach the broader community about how to reduce the risk of colon cancer through healthy choices.

Richard said that some people are hesitant to have a colonoscopy because of the potential for false-positive results, the possibility of injury during the test and the discomfort of preparing for the procedure (people normally must follow a special diet and take strong laxatives to cleanse the colon prior to the screening, and they normally are sedated during the colonoscopy). Richard said that injuries from colonoscopies are rare and the potential to improve outcomes is high.

In the future, Presence Saint Francis plans to expand the focus of the program to general awareness-building around cancer.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.