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Expanded Practice and Policy Recommendations made by Collaborative Program to Improve Prevention of Prevalent Cancers

ScreenNJ to enhance efforts for colorectal and lung cancer screening and education
April 8, 2019

New Brunswick, N.J. – With New Jersey ranking in the nation’s top ten for cancer incidence, there is an increased call for enhanced awareness as well as expanded practice and policy when it comes to cancer screening. ScreenNJ, a collaborative program led by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and funded in part by the New Jersey Department of Health, is already committed to reducing cancer incidence and mortality through an emphasis on screenings for colorectal cancer and lung cancer – two of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the state. At last year’s ‘Conference for Change’ event, hosted by the New Jersey Primary Care Association and sponsored by ScreenNJ, health care providers, community members and researchers from across the state examined current screening practices and communications; data from this event further highlight the need to increase screening efforts. Efforts will be focused on reducing disparities in access to screening in populations including the uninsured, those in underserved communities, and younger patients, since more individuals are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer at an earlier age in New Jersey.

A white paper issued as a result of the conference outlines various policy and practice recommendations including expanding ScreenNJ efforts to all 21 counties, examining screening rates for those treated under Medicaid, and considering the use of dedicated navigators to assist patients with getting screened and follow-up care. Conducting research on how to increase screening rates, launching public awareness and education campaigns on screening benefits, and working with elected officials across the state to foster awareness with their respective constituencies are other recommendations.

“In New Jersey, lung cancer and colorectal cancer account for 20 percent of the more than 50,000 new cancer cases reported. And with a concerning trend in the state over the past two decades indicating an increase in colorectal cancer incidence in adults aged 20 to 49 – which is mostly outside of age guidelines to begin testing – it is imperative to increase screening and education efforts,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, who is also the senior vice president of oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health.

“Through our partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute, we have been able to launch critical initiatives that address cancer prevalence in our state. While New Jersey has been able to reduce cancer deaths in recent years, it is important that we continue to expand efforts for screening and issue up-to-date guidelines that target those most at risk, including communities of color,” says New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef M. Elnahal, MD, MBA.   

“Since its inception and in partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers and other health systems, community physicians and other community partners ScreenNJ has been able to implement effective strategies to reduce tobacco use and increase screening opportunities for colorectal cancer and lung cancer as well as to identify barriers to such testing. With these latest recommendations, we aim to expand our efforts to increase screening rates and further reach diverse and underserved populations,” adds ScreenNJ Director Anita Y. Kinney, PhD, RN, who is also the associate director of Cancer Health Equity and Engagement at Rutgers Cancer Institute and director of the Center for Cancer Health Disparities at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

Along with serving as a resource to patients for screening information, ScreenNJ focuses on education and training for clinicians on cancer screening as well as tobacco mitigation. ScreenNJ is also involved in the development of clinical decision support tools and practice strategies for health care providers, and as part of the ‘Conference for Change’ analysis is being encouraged to recommend how to implement those tools as part of a patient’s electronic medical record.

“By examining screening trends, improving patient-provider communication, and implementing other recommendations, we can arm our partners with the additional tools needed to enhance their cancer screening and patient navigation programs. Practice-changing strategies identified through the ‘Conference for Change’ event can help us increase screening rates and reduce cancer disparities so that more lives can be saved. We thank the State for its support of this critical initiative,” notes ScreenNJ Co-Director Mary O’Dowd, MPH, who is also the executive director of Health Systems and Population Health Integration for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and a former New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with its partner RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options including bone marrow transplantation, proton therapy, and CAR-T cell therapy. Along with clinical trials and novel therapeutics such as precision medicine and immunotherapy – many of which are not widely available – patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital in Newark, and through RWJBarnabas Health facilities.

Along with world-class treatment, which is often fueled by on-site research conducted in Rutgers Cancer Institute laboratories, patients and their families also can seek cancer preventative services and education resources throughout the Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health footprint statewide. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 848-932-8013 or visit www.cinj.org/giving.

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