A research study on community outreach around colorectal cancer screening will be coming soon to Clatsop County. Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) is partnering with Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) for a study to evaluate whether a broad community education campaign about the disease will increase the number of people who are up to date on their colorectal cancer screening. It is funded by The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

“It is exciting to do this research at the community level,” said Venus Fromwiller, health education specialist at CMH. “We can see the academic side and the community side in a rural area. We can learn from both sides.”

Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is the third leading cancer in adults in the U.S.

Different methods of screening can detect colorectal cancer early, when it is most treatable. Some tests can remove polyps, which are small growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum.

“Deaths from colorectal cancer have decreased with the use of colonoscopies and fecal occult blood tests, which check for blood in the stool,” reports the National Cancer Institute.

The community outreach study is focused on measuring whether outreach, such as health fairs, media coverage and meetings about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings will actually increase the number of individuals getting screened, said Fromwiller.

“We would like to normalize the conversation around colorectal cancer,” Fromwiller said. “Patients don’t want to talk about it.”

Fromwiller stressed that there are a number of tests, some less invasive than others, that can help detect colorectal cancer. Patients have options and can discuss with their doctor which tests are best for them.

The tests are:

• Colonoscopy: A 30-minute outpatient procedure using a thin flexible tube with a camera attached. The doctor surveys the inner lining of the rectum and colon to check for cancer, polyps, ulcers, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding. Tissue samples may be collected and abnormal growths may be removed. Preparation time is one or two days.

• Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Similar to a colonoscopy, the doctor only inspects the rectum and lower third of the colon. Sample tissues may be taken. Preparation is one to three days.

• FIT kit (fecal immunochemical test) or High-Sensitivity FOTB (fecal occult blood test): These tests measure blood in the stool. After receiving a kit from one’s doctor or nurse practitioner, the patient collects a stool sample and uses a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool, and returns the kit to the doctor or lab. No preparation is required.

• Stool DNA test: Detects whether DNA changes that indicate colon cancer or polyps are present. The test measures the blood in the stool. This can be done at home, and the sample is returned to the doctor or lab. No preparation is required.

Doctors recommend that people over the age of 50 should be screened for colorectal cancer. Most tests are covered by insurance. A patient’s preference, medical condition and likelihood of getting tested are all part of deciding and which test to get, and should be discussed with one’s health provider.

CMH is working with clinics and providers to get a baseline of the number of patients who are current on their screenings, Fromwiller said. After launching the media campaign, CMH will check back with the providers to measure the number of screenings after three or six months.

Oregon has about 60 to 65 percent of individuals older than 50 being screened for colorectal cancer. “We would like to see that number at 80 percent by 2018,” Fromwiller said, comparing it to the percentage of mammograms.

March is Colorectal Cancer Month.

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