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updated: 1/24/2013 4:34 PM

Advocate joins American Cancer Society campaign to fight colorectal cancer

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Amy Jo Steinbruecker

Advocate Condell Medical Center, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and Advocate Trinity Hospital are among several new Illinois hospitals and ambulatory providers that have joined the American Cancer Society's statewide colorectal cancer screening initiative. Launched in June, the multi-year program is expected to raise awareness about colorectal health and to screen a significant number of the more than 800,000 individuals in Illinois who meet eligibility criteria but haven't been screened, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

"We are delighted Advocate is joining our campaign to raise Illinois' low colonoscopy screening rate," said K. Thomas Robbins, M.D., president of the American Cancer Society's Illinois Division. "If we raise awareness about the importance of screening and ultimately increase access to screening, we will reduce the number of people diagnosed with cancer in this state, and more effectively treat colorectal cancers caught earlier."

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Illinois with an estimated 2,510 people expected to die from the disease this year. But it is one of the only cancers that can actually be prevented through screening, which allows doctors to find polyps in the colon and remove them before they turn cancerous. The disease is highly treatable if found early. The Society recommends that people should start getting screened for colorectal cancer at age 50, but those individuals with a family history are at a higher risk and may need to be screened earlier.

One of the driving forces behind this campaign is that Illinois' screening rate remains low. Only 62 percent of the eligible population in Illinois has received a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. The rate is even lower among uninsured populations. The Society hopes to increase Illinois' colorectal cancer screening rate to 75 percent, potentially adding nearly 80,000 individuals to receive screening each year.

"Advocate is excited to partner with the American Cancer Society on this effort," said Lee Sacks, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer, Advocate Health Care. "Early detection of colorectal cancer is essential in saving lives and raising awareness is vital."

The Illinois Hospital Association played a key role in recruiting new member hospitals for the campaign, so that all geographic areas of the state will be represented.

"As hospitals and other health care providers accelerate the transformation of health care delivery, improving health equity is an important measure of progress," said Derek J. Robinson, M.D., M.B.A., FACEP, executive director, Illinois Hospital Association's Institute for Innovations in Care and Quality. "The Illinois Hospital Association and its member hospitals are pleased to join forces with the American Cancer Society in improving access to colon cancer screening, early detection and treatment with the goal of eliminating colon cancer disparities in Illinois."

In addition to Advocate and the Illinois Hospital Association, other initiative partners include Franciscan St. James Health, Northwestern Memorial, Rush University Medical Center, Southern Illinois Healthcare, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Trinity Regional Health System and University of Chicago Medicine.

Through the colorectal cancer screening initiative, patients who meet screening guidelines will be able to schedule colonoscopies through the partnering hospitals and their satellite facilities. The Society will provide grant money to hospitals providing colonoscopies to the uninsured and underinsured whose insurance does not cover this service. Any abnormalities found, such as polyps or colorectal cancer, will be treated appropriately by the partnering hospitals with no charge to uninsured patients.

The Society also will work with partner hospitals to collect research data on colorectal cancer screening compliance so it can identify barriers to screening for underserved populations and to gauge colonoscopy screening capacity and accessibility at state, regional and local levels.

The initiative is currently being supported by leadership gifts from The Coleman Foundation and the Tellabs Foundation. Additional investments have been made by the American Cancer Society's Women's Leadership Circle, Walgreens, Walmart, Hollister and a number of individual donors.

While colorectal cancer can be deadly, there are steps individuals can take every day to stay well and reduce their risk. The Society recommends that adults maintain a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a well-balanced diet. For those who are currently overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start. Limiting the intake of processed and red meats is another step individuals can take to reduce their risk of this disease.

For more information on the Society's colorectal cancer screening initiative, visit or call 800-227-2543.