GI Professionals Join Forces to Reduce Colon Cancer Deaths

To many, it may be a strange site to stumble upon a group of GI professionals (like myself) from across America listening intently to an acapella serenade of “Screen Every Colon.” Not familiar with that title? That’s because it’s a clever remake to the tune of “Climb Every Mountain.”

The reimagining of the song was the brainchild of Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer of the American Cancer Society and Chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. And no, this wasn’t some dream I had. This was part of an outstanding lecture that took place recently at the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) Annual Course.

Dr. Wender’s leadership, passion and creative approach for the advancement of prevention of colorectal cancer through appropriate screening and his determination toward its accomplishment encourages us to work toward a vision we can make our own and share with others.


Eliminating the second leading cause of cancer death

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. (men and women combined), yet it can be prevented if detected at an early stage. The 80% by 2018 initiative is led by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (an organization of a broad group of member organizations co-founded by ACS and CDC).

The goal of the National Colorectal Roundtable campaign is for colorectal cancer screening of 80% of the appropriate population by 2018.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. (men and women combined).

Organizing change

In 2017 more than 1,250 organizations have committed to substantially reducing colorectal cancer as a major public health problem for those 50 and older, and more organizations are joining all the time. These organizations range from associations like AARP to Community Health Centers, Medicare Advantage Plans and companies, groups and practices of every size. During his lecture, Dr. Wender outlined 10 components of a strategic plan necessary to reach this goal:

  1. The 80% by 2018 campaign has gone viral
  2. We’re not getting anywhere near 80% without relying on our nation’s primary care clinicians
  3. Approaching this state-by-state has broad appeal
  4. Engaging health care plans is difficult but critically important
  5. Hospitals and Cancer Centers can be the difference between our reaching the goal or not


Breaking down the barriers

Dr. Wender noted that barriers exist to achieving this goal. These barriers vary by individual and include affordability, lack of symptoms, no family history, perceptions about the unpleasantness of the test(s), doctor did not recommend it and priority of other health issues.

In society, there are barriers at every level. Important for us to not lose sight of are the following:

  • There are several screening options available
  • Colon cancer can be detected and prevented

It’s up to all of us in the field to step up and make a different to break down these barriers and increase the number of patients getting screened for colorectal cancer.


Campaign success

To this point, the campaign has already proven to be the most successful public health campaign of its type in history. Of course, the work toward colorectal cancer screening will not end in 2018.

“Here’s the painful truth: There is nothing we can do to reach 80% colon cancer screening rates by 2018 … except everything,” said Dr. Wender. “The potential impact is so big…if we can achieve 80% by 2018, 277,000 cases and 203,000 colon cancer deaths would be prevented…by 2030.”

So, as GI nurses and associates, and members of SGNA, we were inspired toward a goal with which we are so familiar in our work. Instances of colorectal cancer are highly prevalent, and if we really give it some thought, it’s likely each of us have been impacted by it in some way. A friend, a relative, a neighbor. We all likely know someone.

Fortunately, the resources to move forward in achieving 80% by 2018 and beyond are numerous.  The National Colorectal Cancer website is a great starting point. I recommend visiting You’ll find tons of downloadable information in the public domain, including the “80% by 2018” pledge. And we can ‘climb every mountain’ in the challenge of achieving the goal of colorectal cancer screening 80% by 2018 and beyond.

Categories : Blog

About Author

Phyllis Malpas

    Phyllis Malpas provides services that promote health care best practices. She has nearly 30 years of experience in the endoscopy field, and has been actively involved in quality and safety initiatives throughout her career.

    Most recently, Phyllis was Nurse Manager, Digestive Disease Center, Endoscopy, at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Medical University Hospital Authority. She previously served as Nurse Manager of the GI Medicine Clinic and Endoscopy Units at MUSC. Prior to working at MUSC, Phyllis was an endoscopy nurse and the Supervisor of Endoscopy Services at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

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