BTN LiveBIG: UW researcher works to prevent cancer

BTN will join the American Cancer Society in the support of Suits and Sneakers™ Awareness Weekend Jan. 24-26, when coaches wear sneakers with their suits during games to raise awareness of the fight against cancer. Today’s blog post, from Elizabeth Mendes, managing editor for research at the American Cancer Society, highlights impressive work being done at the University of Wisconsin to increase Colorectal cancer screening rates.

Colorectal cancer is currently one of only a handful of cancer types that can actually be prevented by getting a screening test. But about 1 in 3 American adults who need to be screened are not doing so.

Jennifer Weiss, M.D.

Jennifer Weiss, M.D., a researcher and physician at the University of Wisconsin, is working on a solution to this problem. Weiss is conducting research, funded by the American Cancer Society, to help health systems nationwide increase colorectal cancer screening rates – and save more lives.

Weiss’ research has already led to a significant improvement in the colorectal cancer screening rate within the University of Wisconsin health system – increasing it from 65% in 2008, when she began her work, to 80% today. Screening alerts for doctors and centralized scheduling were key factors in the improvement.

Next, Weiss will “create a toolkit for other healthcare systems to be able to reference and use as a guide to help improve their colorectal screening rates.”

Weiss plans to complete her work over the next two years or so. As for why Weiss got into this work and remains passionate about it, she says “the biggest thing that influenced me is realizing colorectal cancer is preventable and colonoscopies to remove pre-cancerous polyps are amazing procedures as they remove the polyp before it turns into cancer, which is not really possible for other cancers.”  And, despite the clear evidence that screening tests work, Weiss says there are still a huge number of people who are unnecessarily dying from colorectal cancer.

Weiss also encourages others to get involved. “March is colon cancer awareness month and there will be quite a few University of Wisconsin fundraisers that students and anybody in the community can get involved in.” One big one is Bowlin’ for Colons. “A number of bowling alleys around town participate and all the money goes to cancer research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

Read more about Dr. Weiss’ work on cancer.org.

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