MedStar Washington Hospital Center Receives $232,000 to Combat Crisis of Advanced Colon Cancer among African-Americans in Ward 5 | MedStar Health

MedStar Washington Hospital Center Receives $232,000 to Combat Crisis of Advanced Colon Cancer Among African-Americans in Ward 5

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American Cancer Society and Cigna Foundation Grants Support “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood”

Washington, D.C., March 23, 2017 – The American Cancer Society and the Cigna Foundation have collectively awarded $232,000 in grants to MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s innovative community-based program to address the crisis of advanced colon cancer, occurring largely among African-Americans with health insurance living in Washington D.C.’s Ward 5. The American Cancer Society provided $99,000, and Cigna awarded $133,000 to support “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood,”  a program recognized in former Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, as an innovative effort to promote equitable access to cancer screening and care for underserved populations. 

From 2006 to 2011, 68% of the colorectal cancer patients treated at MedStar Washington Hospital Center presented with stage 2 through stage 4 cancer, with a 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed with stage 2 at 63%, and only11% for those diagnosed with stage 4. Of those, nearly 50% of stage 3 and 4 patients were from Ward 5. Alarmingly, 97% of those presenting with advanced colorectal cancer had health insurance at the time of their diagnosis. The data also showed that 91% of those patients with late stage colorectal cancer were African-Americans.

The goal of “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood” is to significantly increase colorectal cancer screening rates among Ward 5 residents, age 50 and older, and those younger than 50 who have a family history of the condition, with a longer term goal to reduce disparities and save lives. The program will deploy community health workers/patient navigators to work with Ward 5 residents, building community-based partnerships to deliver colon cancer education, perform risk assessments and distribute easy-to-use fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) to use at home. It will also help connect patients with colonoscopy services at the Hospital Center. In addition, education on insurance utilization for preventive cancer screening will be provided at community events.

“We’re truly grateful to the American Cancer Society and the Cigna Foundation for their generous support to our innovative program, which is such an important initiative for the community we serve,” said Elmer Huerta, MD, MPH, director of the Cancer Preventorium at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Dr. Huerta, who was the American Cancer Society’s past president, leads the “Colon Cancer Prevention in the Neighborhood” program with David Shocket, MD, director of Gastroenterology, who will perform the program’s colonoscopies.

The program has also pledged to support the American Cancer Society’s “80% by 2018” national initiative, which aims to reach 80% of the eligible population to be screened for colorectal cancer by 2018, thus saving thousands of lives.

In Washington, D.C., it is expected that 210 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and that 90 deaths will occur due to colorectal cancer in 2017.

The present overall colorectal screening rate in the District is 67.9% according to the District of Columbia Department of Health BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) for 2014. Reaching 80% by 2018 would avoid 453 new cases of colorectal cancer and 332 deaths by in the District by 2030. In order to reach this goal, close to 40,000 people in the District need to be screened.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for men and women combined.


About MedStar Washington Hospital Center
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a 912-bed, major teaching and research hospital. It is the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the nation’s capital, among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation and a major referral center for treating the most complex cases. Its cardiology program is highly acclaimed and its cardiac surgery program has consistently earned the highest national rating–three stars–from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. It also is a respected top facility in the areas of cancer, diabetes & endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, gastroenterology & GI surgery, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, pulmonology and urology. It operates MedSTAR, a nationally-verified level I trauma center with a state-of-the-art fleet of helicopters and ambulances, and also operates the region’s only adult Burn Center.

About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 2.5 million volunteers saving lives and fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society's efforts have contributed to a 22 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. Thanks in part to our progress, 15.5 million Americans who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will celebrate more birthdays this year. We're determined to finish the fight against cancer. We're finding cures as the nation’s largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings, clean air, and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit

About the Cigna Foundation
The Cigna Foundation, founded in 1962, is a private foundation funded by contributions from Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) and its subsidiaries. The Cigna Foundation supports organizations sharing its commitment to enhancing the health of individuals and families, and the well-being of their communities, with a special focus on those communities where Cigna employees live and work.