JACKSON — The University of Mississippi Medical Center is a new member of a national organization dedicated to lowering deaths from colorectal cancer.
The UMMC Cancer Institute has joined the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, a national coalition of public, private and voluntary organizations working to lower colorectal deaths.
Mississippi has the highest colorectal cancer death rate in the United States. Colorectal cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in Mississippi.
“We know that in Mississippi if more of our state’s residents were screened for colorectal cancer, fewer would die of it,” said Dr. Srinivasan “Dr. Vijay” Vijayakumar, Cancer Institute director. “Our goals to lower deaths from these cancers fit beautifully with those of the Roundtable, so I hope we can help each other to lower colorectal cancer deaths in Mississippi and beyond our borders.”
Dr. Roy Duhe, Cancer Institute associate director for education, was instrumental in seeking the membership.
“As the newest member of a coalition that has been working since 1997, we will benefit from years of collective experience, so we won’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Duhe said. “Mississippi is a laboratory for transformational change in the colorectal cancer outcomes of poor and underserved rural communities, and several of the member organizations may be able to help us accomplish this change much faster than if we tried to do it alone.”
He is working to unite groups throughout Mississippi that are interested in lowering Mississippi’s deaths from colorectal cancer into an organization that can mount a statewide campaign to encourage more people to be screened when appropriate.
Nearly 50 representatives from more than two dozen community and medical groups, agencies and organizations gathered at UMMC in August to discuss how to do that.
Duhe said that while effective screening is available, too few Mississippians use it. Colorectal screening can help identify the cancer early when chances of a cure are higher, or allow polyps to be removed before they become malignant.
“Considering all the facts, increasing colorectal cancer screening rates is the simplest way to create the largest impact on colorectal cancer in Mississippi,” he said. “All we needed was a little spark to unify a statewide partnership.”
The 70×2020 Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative has a goal of seeing at least 70 percent of the state’s eligible population screened for colorectal cancer by 2020. The Roundtable has a goal of seeing 80 percent of U.S. residents screened by 2018.
Duhe, also a UMMC professor of pharmacology and toxicology and of radiation oncology, has been working for more than a year to gather the groups for the August conference.
The conference allowed representatives of those groups to meet each other and work together to explore barriers that prevent people from being screened, ranging from having no screening facility near their homes to fear of the process. Soon, they hope to implement a plan to provide information to all Mississippians about colorectal screening, encourage them to be screened and to provide screening access.
“We know that screening can help prevent many colorectal cancers,” said Vijayakumar, professor and Department of Radiation Oncology chairman. “Most physicians dream of ways to prevent cancer, even as we are treating it. This is a step toward making that dream a reality.”
Joining the Roundtable gives UMMC and the 70×2020 members access to more ideas on ways to encourage more Mississippians to be screened and to programs that may help reach more Mississippians.
“Dr. Ralph Vance was fond of saying that the best way to cure cancer was to prevent it,” Duhe said of the retired UMMC oncologist and past president of the American Cancer Society. “We’re working with the Roundtable so that we will soon see the day when we can prevent colorectal cancer in most Mississippians.”
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