WNC Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative
The WNC Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative (WNC CRCSI) provides colorectal cancer screening to average risk, uninsured, low income patients between ages of 45 and 75 in Buncombe, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties. The program is run by Digestive Health Partners (a gastroenterologist practice in Asheville) in collaboration with local federally qualified community health centers, WCMS's Project Access, and the American Cancer Society. The program was founded by local physician, Dr. Michael Newcomer of Digestive Health Partners. Started in 2019, the WNC CRCSI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) housed within WCMS.
How WNC CRCSI Works
Participating community health centers provide uninsured, average risk patients age 50 or older with a fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
Patients with a positive FIT who meet the program’s criteria receive a colonoscopy with no out of pocket cost.
WNC CRCSI patients who are under 65 years of age, below 138% FPL and who have been residents of Buncombe or Madison counties for at least one year qualify for Project Access® and can obtain hospital- based endoscopy services, colonoscopy, anesthesia, pathology and cancer treatment services at no cost. Patients who do not qualify for Project Access® and have a positive FIT receive a colonoscopy with no out-of-pocket cost. Patients with a positive colonoscopy are then enrolled in a charity care program at one of the local hospitals to receive low-cost surgery and cancer care.
Why it Matters
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in North Carolina but is highly treatable when detected early
By participating in the WNC CRCSI, Buncombe county’s largest community health center has increased its colorectal cancer screening rate from 34% to 75% in four years, the highest screening rate in the state and one of the highest in the country.
Services provided through programs like WNC CRCSI can have a significant impact in decreasing screening disparities in the uninsured.