2010-04-20 03:37:29 UTC

Massachusetts Free Colonoscopy Pilot Program Provides Access for Uninsured Residents

Boston, MA (March 20, 2009) – Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among Massachusetts residents. With proper screening, many deaths can be prevented, yet only half of people who need colorectal cancer screening get screening. To bridge that gap, nine Massachusetts hospitals will provide colonoscopies on March 21 as part of the first state-wide colonoscopy event.

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute and the New England Division of the American Cancer Society are hosting the first Massachusetts Free Colonoscopy Pilot Program to help educate patients about the importance of colorectal cancer screening and to encourage all individuals over age 50 to undergo this important life-saving test. This is only multi-hospital screening program around the country.

“The AGA Institute firmly believes that all Americans should have access to lifesaving colorectal cancer screenings,” said Carla Ginsburg, MD, MPH, AGAF, councilor of the AGA Institute. “The AGA is pleased to be working with the American Cancer Society to ensure patients have access to colorectal cancer screenings and to encourage all patients over age 50 to talk with their doctor about colorectal cancer screening. We also appreciate the support we have received from the Massachusetts Department of Health.”

Individuals who do not have health insurance are less likely to undergo preventive screening for colorectal cancer. Therefore, these individuals have a higher death rate due to more advanced disease at diagnosis.

This event strives to increase awareness of the need for colorectal cancer screening and provide free screening for some individuals who could not otherwise afford this vital test. More than 30 gastroenterologists at the following hospitals are participating in the event:

  • Berkshire Medical Center
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Boston Medical Center*
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital*
  • Massachusetts General Hospital*
  • MetroWest Medical Center
  • Newton-Wellesley Hospital
  • North Shore Medical Center*
  • UMass Memorial Medical Center


*Due to individual circumstances, select hospitals are participating on Friday, March 20.

Janet McGrail Spillane, Massachusetts Vice President of Health Initiatives for the American Cancer Society said, “Colon cancer testing helps us actually prevent cancer from occurring, when we find polyps and have them removed. Although it is the third most common cause of cancer death in both men and women in America, it is preventable, treatable, and beatable.”

The Massachusetts Free Colonoscopy Pilot Program, planned for March 21, is a small screening pilot conducted with the assistance of the Department of Public Health Women’s Health Network (WHN) and Men’s Health Partnership (MHP). Through this partnership, the organizations hope to provide a broad based screening event targeting low income uninsured adults age 50 and over. The WHN and MHP provide the infrastructure that will enable a screening pilot that can be implemented and evaluated in such a short time frame. Patients are selected through the WHN and MHP programs. Unfortunately, it is beyond the capacity of this program to accept patients for colonoscopy who are not referred by the Department of Public Health.

“We are very pleased that so many hospitals were willing to participate in this important event. It is so important that people over 50 get screened regularly, and we do not want cost to deter anyone from receiving this service,” said Jewel Mullen, MD, MPH, MPA, Director of the Bureau of Community Health Access and Promotion, MA Department of Public Health. “We hope that this can become an annual event.”

Information for patients about colorectal cancer:


Salix Pharmaceuticals contributed more than 100 samples of MoviPrep® to the community health centers for use with patients participating in pilot program.

About Colorectal Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the U.S. and is the third leading cause of cancer death for men and women. Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. It can be prevented by finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous and is highly treatable if found in its early stages.

In Massachusetts, an estimated 3,560 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2008 and an estimated 1,100 individuals died of the disease. It is estimated nationally, that half of all deaths due to colon cancer could be prevented if everyone age 50 and over got screened.

Fortunately, statewide, Massachusetts is doing slightly better than the U.S. in screening and outcomes, and the screening rates have been steadily increasing. In addition to this pilot project, Massachusetts is focusing on Hispanic and black non-Hispanic men who have been found to be diagnosed at a later stage of disease when the opportunity for healthier outcomes decreases. Despite all efforts it is important to insure that everyone has the appropriate information and access to life-saving screening in a timely fashion.

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About the AGA Institute

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is dedicated to the mission of advancing the science and practice of gastroenterology. Founded in 1897, the AGA is one of the oldest medical-specialty societies in the U.S. Comprised of two non-profit organizations—the AGA and the AGA Institute—our more than 17,000 members include physicians and scientists who research, diagnose and treat disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. For more information, please visit www.gastro.org.

About the American Cancer Society

The mission of the American Cancer Society is to eliminate cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and patient service. The largest private, not-for-profit source of funding for cancer research in the world, the American Cancer Society targets beginning investigators working in institutions throughout the country, and directs research money into high-priority projects not being emphasized by other funding agencies.