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Advancing Cancer Awareness in Our Community

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At Temple Health, we’re always focused on researching and treating colorectal cancer—but as March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve also been hosting a series of special events to promote education and prevention among our patients and community. At Temple Health-Main Campus, that meant the return of the giant inflatable colon—which participants could walk through to learn more about various colon conditions—as well as a table with representatives from Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple University Hospital.

Our team members also handed out free FIT (fecal immunochemical) test kits, which is part of an approach that earned Claire Raab, MD, President and CEO of Temple Faculty Physicians, and her team of Lewis Katz School of Medicine students and Internal Medicine residents, a Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) Achievement Award for their ACCESS (Advancing Colorectal Cancer Equity through Systematic Screening) project.

This team’s work is critical to our health equity efforts, as while colorectal cancer mortality rates for majority groups have been steadily declining, attempts to lower rates among underrepresented populations—like those we serve at Temple Health—have been much less successful. ACCESS counters these disparities by expanding access to preventative screening beyond primary care offices and specialty care appointments, bringing screening and education to ambulatory care sites, churches, and community health fairs.

ACCESS is able to do so because they use FIT testing, rather than a colonoscopy-based approach (which is one of the most difficult to access). FIT testing is not only much more accessible, but has been proven to reduce colorectal cancer deaths on par with once-a-decade colonoscopy. Earlier and easier access means earlier diagnosis and treatment, and improved outcomes for colorectal cancer care among the underrepresented populations we work with. Indeed, open access colonoscopy and follow-up care appointments are scheduled immediately for patients who test positive for possible colorectal malignancy and are without high-risk comorbidities.

Dr. Raab and ACCESS—as well as the Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple Health team and the rest of our colleagues working on colorectal cancer awareness, research, and treatment—are an example of health equity in action. They show how innovative approaches to caring for underserved populations can reduce care disparities, enhance access, and increase patient satisfaction.