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Cancer Registries: Increasing Screening and Awareness in Underserved Areas

Photo of a man and a woman talking to a doctor

When cancer registries learn that people who live in a certain area get cancer more often, or that their cancer is found at a later stage when it's harder to treat, they can share that information with organizations who can try to figure out why and help fix the problem. For example, the state comprehensive cancer control coalition or non-profit partners can help more people get screened for cancer by offering free or low-cost screening services, bringing in a mobile mammography van, or spreading the word about screening services that few people know about. They can also tell people about things that can cause cancer, like smoking and indoor tanning, so people can change these actions and lower their risk.

The following examples show how cancer registries in CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries are using their data to fight cancer in underserved areas.

Washington D.C.: High Rates of Colorectal Cancer in Wards 7 and 8

The District of Columbia Cancer Registry found that more people in wards 7 and 8 were getting colorectal cancer than people in other parts of the city. This was probably due to the fact that fewer people in this low-income area were getting screened for colorectal cancer.

The DC Cancer Consortium and the DC Comprehensive Cancer Control Program funded a citywide program to give free colorectal cancer screening tests to people without health insurance. They focused on telling people in wards 7 and 8 about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer and helping them get screened.

New York: Neighborhood Maps of Colorectal Cancer Rates Reveal Ethnic Disparities

Colorectal cancer rates among Asians and Pacific Islanders in New York City are 23% lower than the rate for the city as a whole among men, and 16% lower among women. The New York State Cancer Registry made maps showing where colorectal cancer rates were highest for Asians and Pacific Islanders. The maps showed the rates were highest in the Flushing section of Queens and the Chinatown neighborhood in Manhattan. Since most of the residents in these neighborhoods are foreign-born Chinese immigrants, they may have a higher risk of getting colorectal cancer.

The registry shared its findings with the New York State Cancer Services Program, which started a patient navigation project to increase colorectal cancer screening among Chinese or Taiwanese people in Chinatown and Flushing in 2012. The patient navigator has contacted about 1,300 clients; about 900 have been screened for colorectal cancer, and about 150 are in the process of being screened.

Photo of a doctor speaking to a crowd of people

Idaho: Cancer Registry Data Support Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Information from the Cancer Data Registry of Idaho show that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Idaho and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death. Idaho has one of the lowest colorectal cancer screening rates in the nation. Screening can find colorectal cancer early, when it is easiest to treat.

The registry shared this information with Idaho's Public Health District Comprehensive Cancer Program to support National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March 2013. Activities included presentations by doctors at a large business and a local hospital; a giant inflatable colon at two hospitals; messages in print, on television, and on the Web; and displays in libraries and health clinics. About one-fourth of Idaho's population (more than 400,000 people) saw these messages.

Public health districts used registry data to target certain areas. For example, fewer people in Idaho County had been screened for colorectal cancer, and they were more likely to get colorectal cancer. The North Central District Cancer Coordinator worked with the Cancer Awareness and Prevention Coalition of North Central Idaho to promote colorectal cancer screening, with extra efforts in Idaho County. The Cancer Coordinator created six messages that address issues, excuses, and barriers to screening. The six messages were published in the Idaho County Free Press newspaper for 26 weeks.

Pennsylvania: Targeting the Areas of Greatest Need for Mammograms and Pap Tests

Pennsylvania's Healthy Woman Program needed a way to find out which counties had the highest breast and cervical cancer rates. The Pennsylvania Cancer Registry was able to give them this information.

Before, the program made decisions based on general population counts or general demographics that were only suspected of having a larger cancer burden. With the cancer registry data, the program knows what groups of people are most likely to get cancer, and which county they live in. The program now targets the areas of the state that need help most.

Georgia: Helping Underserved Women Get Mammograms

Some Georgia counties have many women who qualify for a free or low-cost mammogram, but there is no place in the county for them to get one. In these counties, women who get breast cancer are more likely to find it at a later stage, when it's harder to treat. The Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry identified these counties.

The state breast and cervical cancer program is finding new partners to meet breast cancer screening needs in these counties. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliate in the Macon health district is focusing on high-need counties in their area, and the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition is providing more resources in their coverage area.

Colorado: Women in One Census Tract Are More Likely to Get Breast Cancer

The Colorado Central Cancer Registry noted that residents in a north Denver census tract had a higher breast cancer incidence, and the cancer was found at a later stage. The registry shared this information with Colorado programs in the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and the National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, who worked to increase awareness and services in this area and arranged for a mobile mammography van to visit the area.

Tennessee: Fighting Lung Cancer in Springfield

The Tennessee Cancer Registry found out that people who lived in Springfield, Tennessee were almost twice as likely to get lung cancer as Tennessee residents overall, and that their rate was a lot higher than people who live in Robertson, the county in which Springfield is located.

Based on this information, the state's Office of Cancer Surveillance is working with the Robertson County Health Council, and is asking to work with the local Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and hospital to help people in Springfield stop smoking.

Idaho: Finding Health Districts and Counties with the Highest Melanoma Rates

The Cancer Data Registry of Idaho published information on Idaho's high melanoma (the deadliest kind of skin cancer) rates, including detailed data by health district and county. Among whites, who have the highest risk for melanoma, Idaho had the 11th highest melanoma incidence rate and the highest melanoma death rate in the United States.

Based on this information, the Idaho Comprehensive Cancer Control Program used media in targeted areas of the state to promote messages about how to lower your skin cancer risk. The Idaho Comprehensive Cancer Control Program started a "No Sun for Baby" educational program in childbirth classes in eastern Idaho, which was recently expanded statewide. The Comprehensive Cancer Alliance for Idaho made skin cancer prevention and early detection a high priority, and many members, such as hospitals, the American Cancer Society, and the state employee wellness program, have held skin examination events.

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