UAMS Seeks to Improve Colon Cancer Screening Rates


A $985,000 grant will help University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) resident physicians reach more Arkansas patients about the importance of colon cancer screenings. The four-year National Cancer Institute grant will expand a previous UAMS study aimed at increasing the rate of colon cancer screenings through patient education.

Principal investigators for the study are Geoffrey Goldsmith, M.D., the Garnett professor and chair of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine of the UAMS College of Medicine, and Robert Price, Ph.D., professor and a researcher in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

The researchers will join forces with residency programs based at the UAMS Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Texarkana. After training sessions, resident physicians and staff will begin using the techniques in the clinics by late summer.

A 2007 study, also led by Goldsmith and coordinated by Marcia Bias, R.N., in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, found that giving more information to patients in rural family medical practices improved the rate of colon cancer screenings.

Those patients, who watched videos explaining the screening and its importance, were nearly five times more likely to schedule a cancer screening.


With the new program, researchers will conduct orientation sessions for resident physicians and clinic staff starting this spring. The sessions will cover screening guidelines; communication with patients who are from an under-represented minority group such as Latinos or African-Americans; applications for patient education resources; and using the electronic medical record system to prompt discussions with patients.

Resident physicians will learn new methods for discussing colon cancer screenings. They will be equipped with multi-media resources designed to address patient concerns. In addition, software will be installed on the electronic medical record (EMR)system in the AHEC clinics that will automatically identify patients who meet risk factors for colon cancer. The EMR will then prompt physicians to discuss the subject with patients.

Working with clinic managers and staff, the researchers will track how the new techniques and tools are implemented into the clinic setting.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It starts as a polyp and can be prevented if detected early. Some patients may avoid a colon cancer screening because they do not fully understand what is involved and are worried about pain or discomfort.

People age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Those with parents or brothers and sisters who have been diagnosed with colon cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease and should have a screening every three to five years, he said.

UAMS News Release