August 19, 2019

The Western Carolina Medical Society Foundation--in collaboration with Digestive Health Partners (DHP)-- has been awarded a Colon Cancer Coalition (CCC) grant to expand the Western North Carolina Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative (WNC-CRCSI) across 5 counties.

The WNC-CRCSI, a program managed by DHP and housed within the Western Carolina Medical Society Foundation (WCMSF), provides colorectal cancer screening to average risk, uninsured, low income patients between ages of 50-75. It utilizes stool based testing with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), provided at community health centers. Many patients with a positive FIT test receive a screening colonoscopy with no out of pocket costs via Project Access® (a volunteer health care network in Buncombe and Madison counties, managed by the WCMSF). Project Access® enables eligible patients to receive a follow up screening colonoscopy without having to pay any charges associated with facility, anesthesia, pathology and treatment to address the diagnosis of cancer. 

Dr. Michael Newcomer, the medical director of WNC-CRCSI, notes that “colorectal cancer screening is effective, but is underutilized, especially among the uninsured. Improving access to screening for the uninsured can result in both early cancer detection and prevention of CRC with the removal of precancerous polyps." Since its inception, WNC- CRCSI has provided over 68 screening colonoscopies to patients with positive FITs in Buncombe County. Out of these 68 patients, 32% were found to have advanced adenomas, which could turn into colorectal cancer if not caught early via this program. Three percent were found to have colorectal cancer.

Although the WNC-CRCSI has been effective in providing colorectal screening and early intervention to the uninsured population, there are a significant number of uninsured patients who are ineligible to receive free services through Project Access ®. A grant from the Colon Cancer Coalition in the amount of $22,000 has been awarded to support the WNC-CRCSI Expansion Program. Funds from the Colon Cancer Coalition grant will cover screening colonoscopies for 39 uninsured patients with positive FITs and 23 GI preps for uninsured patients in Buncombe, Madison, Yancey, Avery and Mitchell counties.

“The Coalition is excited to provide the funds raised at Get Your Rear in Gear – Asheville to help ensure more patients are able to complete their potentially life-saving colorectal cancer screening,” said Erin Peterson, communications director at the Colon Cancer Coalition. “We love and appreciate the work that Dr. Newcomer and his team are doing in their community to screen the uninsured throughout western North Carolina and are happy to help contribute to these efforts.”

To read the full press release, click here.