Meeting addresses colorectal cancer screening in American Indian and Alaska Native communities

GroupPhotoThe NCCRT and the American Cancer Society recently co-sponsored a meeting to discuss increasing colorectal cancer screening in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. The meeting was co-moderated by the Society’s Chief Cancer Control Officer and NCCRT Chair, Dr. Richard Wender, and Kris Rhodes, MPH, Executive Director of the American Indian Cancer Foundation. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together AI/AN health leaders, public health specialists, and individuals/programs involved in colorectal cancer screening to discuss the challenges in improving access to quality colorectal cancer screening in this population. We were pleased to have the participation of leadership from the Indian Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among many other local, regional and national leaders in AI/AN cancer prevention and control.

“Colorectal cancer is an area in which we still see many disparities, especially among American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said Dr. Wender. “We hope that this meeting will accelerate our collaborative efforts to eliminate these disparities and reduce the burden of colorectal cancer among American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Many AI/AN communities experience higher rates of colorectal cancer incidence and mortality and overall screening rates are lower than the national rate. According to the Indian Health Service GPRA measure, screening is at 38.6% in this population. A major barrier to screening is the distance to health care services for those communities living in rural parts of the country.

The meeting attendees discussed evidence-based interventions to support increased screening. One attendee shared how implementing systems changes in an AI/AN-serving primary care clinic on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula increased colorectal cancer screening from 21% to 63% in just a few years.

Many thanks to the CDC for their gracious cooperation in allowing us to hold this meeting as a pre-meeting to the CDC’s summit on cancer control in AI/AN communities that began the following day.

A post meeting report will be shared on nccrt.org in the coming months.