Dell Medical School gets $2.3 million grant for colon cancer testing

The University of Texas Dell Medical School has received a $2.3 million grant to screen more people in Travis County for colorectal cancer. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, according to the American Cancer Society. It’s also the third-most common cancer diagnosis in the U.S.

The death rate has been dropping because of doctors using screenings to discover and remove more colorectal polyps before they become cancer.

Dell Medical School estimates that of the people who have limited access to health care in Travis County, only about 35 percent are being screened. They also might wait up to six months to be screened.

“We’ve made tremendous advances in colon cancer over the past 20 years, and it’s been a very collaborative and gratifying effort,” Dr. Michael Pignone said in a news release. He is leading the project and is the chair of the school’s department of internal medicine. “But we have a large population of people who have not benefited from that yet. This project will allow us to work on a larger solution for those who haven’t had access to that level of care.”

The three-year grant funded by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas is aimed at decreasing wait time to get screened and increasing the number of people being screened. Initially, the program will mail screening kits to about 13,000 patients served by CommuniCare who haven’t had a recent screening. Recipients mail the kits to a testing facility, which will look for blood in the stool. If a test comes back positive, the patient will be scheduled for a colonoscopy, which will be paid for by the grant.

The program also will track those patients to remind them when they need follow-up colonoscopies.

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