Collaboration on Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer Earns Local Organizations State Honors

The efforts of two area groups to provide early detection of colorectal cancer have earned state recognition, and may have saved lives as well. District Health Department 10 and Spectrum Health Reed City Campus were named Spirit of Collaboration Award Winners by the Michigan Cancer Consortium at their end of the year award program.

The Health Department teamed up with Spectrum Health to identify and screen uninsured people at risk for colorectal cancer in Lake and Mecosta Counties. The service was a pilot project funded by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Seventy-four residents of Lake and Mecosta County received risk assessment, screening and education about colorectal cancer, including screening for risk factors and symptoms. Of the 74, twenty-one received colonoscopies. Preliminary results showed that no one had colorectal cancer, but a significant number had polyps that required removal. Polyps are a mass of tissue that develops on the inside wall of a hollow organ, as within the colon or rectum. They can develop into colorectal cancer.

“This program allowed each partner to focus on their strengths to help our residents,” said Kelly Gawne, a Spectrum Health Reed City Campus registered nurse who acted as the project liaison. “With the Health Department identifying people at risk in our community and Spectrum Health providing the screenings and clinical services, we were able to examine a large group of people and remove any polyps that might pose problems in the future.”

Outreach for the program was provided by Health Department 10, which serves Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana and Wexford Counties. It also provided risk assessment, program planning and coordination with residents. Kits that test for blood in the stool, often an early warning sign of colorectal cancer, were also provided by the Health Department.

Spectrum Health provided colonoscopy screening, including physician services, lab services and treatment services to the uninsured project participants. Spectrum Health also provided a project liaison, who functioned as a nurse case manager and patient advocate.

“Prevention and screening is one of our primary efforts in the community,” said Jennifer Hansen, MA, early detection program coordinator of Health Department 10. Our combination of community outreach and Spectrum Health’s clinical services was a success and a model that others can adopt.”

The Michigan Cancer Consortium is a statewide partnership of groups that provide a forum for collaboration to reduce the incidence of cancer in Michigan. Their Spirit of Collaboration Awards are given annually. One reviewer who studied the colorectal program stated that the Health Department and Spectrum Health showed “great collaboration in an underserved area of the State including a county with a significant colorectal cancer mortality rate.”

In addition to the clinical outcomes, this collaboration has resulted in other groups taking a similar approach. The Regional Cancer Steering Committee serving Northwest Central Michigan is developing a proposal for a federal Rural Outreach Grant to provide broad cancer early detection screening services to targeted communities.