The University of South Carolina’s Center for Colon Cancer Research (CCCR) has been awarded a $3.6 million five-year grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the Colorectal Cancer Screening Program in South Carolina. CDC awarded a total of $22.8 million across 31 grantees, including 24 state health departments, six universities and one American Indian tribe to increase colorectal screening among underserved populations. The principal investigators on the South Carolina-based project are CCCR director Dr. Franklin Berger, who is also a professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Heather Brandt, associate professor of health promotion, education, and behavior at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Many cases of this type of cancer can be prevented, and still others can be detected earlier through participation in recommended screening. Despite estimates that up to 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented through regular screening and appropriate treatment, fewer than half of adults ages 50 and older are screened at recommended intervals.
“Colorectal cancer screening remains vastly underutilized in comparison to other types of cancer screening, particularly among medically underserved individuals,” says Dr. Berger. “Unfortunately, there are significant disparities based on socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and geographic location.”
Such disparities are amplified for those living in the South where rural areas are commonly underserved. With these inequities in mind, the purpose of CCCR’s new program is to increase colorectal cancer screening among medically underserved individuals by improving health care systems serving uninsured patients in federally qualified health centers throughout South Carolina.
“One of the things we will be doing is to develop new clinical, organizational, and community partnerships — as well as further cultivating our existing ones—to support increased screening,” says Dr. Brandt. “We will be collaborating with eight federally qualified health center systems, which include 63 delivery sites in 20 counties, the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association and the American Cancer Society to increase colorectal cancer screening. We will work with the centers to implement evidence-based strategies to increase colorectal cancer screening.”