Wheaton Franciscan works to increase colorectal cancer prevention

Each year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is often considered a highly preventable cancer, yet is the least prevented cancer due to the lack of patient compliance with current screening options, states Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.

For example, for those whose cancer is detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate can be greater than 90 percent, making routine screening critical. Twenty-three million Americans, however, aged 50 and over do not get screened as recommended.

Wheaton Franciscan is working to help more people get screened by being the first health care system in Milwaukee to offer Cologuard, the first and only FDA-approved noninvasive stool DNA screening test for colorectal cancer.

Produced by Madison-based Exact Sciences Corp., Cologuard makes it easy for average-risk patients 50 years and older to get screened at their convenience and in the privacy and comfort of their own home.

“Wheaton is pleased to be the first system in Milwaukee to utilize Cologuard,” said Dr. Paul Hartlaub, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s medical director for clinical quality and population health. “Although we still recommend the colonoscopy for eligible patients because it is more effective for early detection of colon cancer, we are excited to provide an alternative option in order to increase the number of people being screened.”

Cologuard analyzes a person’s stool to detect both altered DNA and blood known to be associated with colorectal cancer or pre-cancer. Cologuard is available by prescription only for people age 50 and over at average risk for colon cancer (no prior history with polyps or cancer, and no family history with colon cancer.)

After a health care provider orders Cologuard, the test is delivered directly to the patient’s home. The patient collects a stool sample in the collection container provided and sends the test back to the lab for testing using a pre-paid mailer. Results are turned around in about two weeks and patients learn their results from their health care provider.

“The more effective options you can provide for patients to get regular colon cancer screenings, the more opportunity we have to improve early detection and survival rates for this dangerous disease,” Hartlaub said.

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