July 21, 2008 | Arkansas legislators gathered recently at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) for an update on the burden of cancer among Arkansans.
Members of the Public Health Labor and Welfare Committee were in attendance. Sen. Jack Critcher is chairman of the committee.
The June 25 meeting’s agenda focused on the status of the Arkansas Colorectal Cancer Control and Research Program.
Funded by the Colorectal Cancer Act of 2005, the program provides an opportunity for the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Cancer Control Program to provide education and training for primary care physicians and no-cost colorectal screenings for uninsured patients throughout Arkansas who meet program guidelines. The project is conducted in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Cancer Coalition, the Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association, UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, community physicians and health care leaders.
“As a surgeon, I often see patients with advanced disease,” said Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D., director of the Colorectal Cancer Control and Research Program and principal investigator for the Arkansas Cancer Community Network (AR-CCN) at the Cancer Institute. “If we can prevent disease or catch it in its earliest stages, the patient’s survival rate is greatly increased and the overall cost of treatment is greatly decreased.”
The cost to treat one patient who is diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer is about $200,000, said Peter Emanuel, M.D., director of the Cancer Institute and one of the program’s presenters. Emanuel called the project a “first step” in reaching the baseline colorectal cancer screening rate recommended by the American Cancer Society. “This is not a fix. It is an important attempt to address a major problem for Arkansans — the lack of knowledge about and access to cancer screenings,” he said.
Presenters offered findings of the demonstration project, which included surveys of Arkansans concerning their attitude about screenings and their personal screening history. Physicians also were surveyed about their screening practice and attitudes.
As part of the project, 467 patients were referred for colorectal screenings. Of those, 337 received a colonoscopy, with 59 found to have precancerous polyps and three to have cancer.
Additional presenters from UAMS included Paul Greene, Ph.D., professor of health and behavior education, and Glen Mays, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management, both at the UAMS College of Public Health.
Colorectal cancer survivor Louise Scott shared her story, as did Matt Garner, M.D., a physician in Jonesboro who participated in the demonstration project at his clinic.
Special guest Durado Brooks, M.D., director of prostate and colorectal cancers at the American Cancer Society’s national office, praised the project’s success at demonstrating the need and possibility for positive change among Arkansans.
The legislative briefing was the fourth in a series of briefings on cancer-related topics scheduled through 2009 and was sponsored by the AR-CCN.
Funded by the National Cancer Institute Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, the legislative briefing series on cancer is designed to give Arkansas policymakers access to the expertise of cancer researchers who are working to reduce the cancer burden through prevention, early detection and timely treatment services.