Written by Andrea (Andi) Dwyer, Director of the Colorado Cancer Screening Program

Newswise — July 1, 2020 marked the start of another year of funding for the Colorado Cancer Screening Program (CCSP) for Patient Navigation but just like most things in 2020… it’s not just another year for a decade long program.  CCSP is a Program of the University of Colorado Cancer Center with faculty and staff leadership of the Colorado School of Public health.  CCSP supports the safety net clinics of Colorado to increase colorectal cancer screening and also expanding to better uptake of lung cancer and hereditary cancer screening.   But keeping funding for cancer prevention in control in Colorado was tougher and more desperate than any year before.  CCSP is funded through the Cancer Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Grants Disease Program (CCPD), through the competitive grants avenue.  In the 2019/2020 legislative session if a state of fiscal emergency would have been declared, the Program budget could have been dramatically reduced or completed defunded.  The legislature was not able to gain the majority vote to move ahead a state of fiscal emergency and CCSP was spared.  But for several years, CCSP has had to educate to share the importance of cancer screening and advocate for funding as the CCPD funding source is more limited in dollars and now expanded to a broader portfolio of funding more disease or focus areas than when the grants program was established. 

In the wake of COVID-19, we are now picking up the pieces after a stand-still in cancer screening, disruptions in cancer care and preparing for the increased cancer incidence and mortality as a result.  The elective procedure ban dramatically reduced elective procedures in Colorado and the CCSP Program saw overall a 95% drop in people being navigated into colonoscopies, low dose CT imaging and genetic counseling, March-June of 2020 as compared to 2019 rates.  This is particularly salient as CCSP is one of the only statewide programs in Colorado with emphasis on delivering care who are in rural communities, communities of color and those who have limited incomes who are most challenged to access resources.  We are at the cross-roads of health and access to care; the need has never been more apparent. 

To address this need, CCSP and other programs targeted at reducing health disparities have helped aid in fiscal support and technical support to deploy programs for patient navigation and helping reducing the factors that get in the way of people getting screening, like transportation and securing bowel preparation.   CCSP has navigated over 30,000 people into preventive screening and prevented hundreds of cancers and equally caught cancers when they were earlier in stage and easier to treat. There is also great fiscal implication for these case studies of prevention and disease management.  

CCSP made it another year with CCPD grant support, fingers crossed.  Beyond the summer of 2021, the future of the Program is not known but with the support of the Colorado Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, there are deeper opportunities to explore how programs for the medically underserved might sustain beyond fleeting grant funding.  The University of Colorado team is honored to work with our safety net clinic systems and community partners to make the most of this year and continue to Champion the cancer cause to all Colorado communities.