M Health Fairview marks 10 years of colorectal cancer program for diverse, underserved residents

M Health Fairview. Stock image of a Clinician watching a screen showing scope of internal organs

This March, which is colorectal cancer awareness month, M Health Fairview is celebrating 10 years of its colorectal cancer prevention program, which has provided free colonoscopy screenings and education for individuals in diverse and underserved communities. The screenings are provided to adults ages 45-75 in Minnesota, and participants must be under- or uninsured. As of March 5, there have been 345 free screenings, with thousands of others provided with information about colorectal cancer. M Health Fairview's goal for 2024 is to perform 50 total colonoscopies.

“Screenings are preventive medicine and important for all adults,” said Francisco Ramirez, supervisor of community education and outreach for M Health Fairview Community Advancement. “It’s better to detect an issue early and treat it versus discovering that the patient already has an advanced stage of cancer. This program is removing barriers to cancer screenings and helping our health system advance health equity in our communities.” Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis and second leading cause of cancer death for Minnesota residents, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Studies have shown that colorectal cancer screening rates in Minnesota are only 50-55% in non-white populations, compared to 75% for white populations — a disparity made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It makes me a little teary to think about the people we work with who are underserved in health care for a variety of reasons,” said Liz Francois, R.N., nurse manager of endoscopy and central sterile supply at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital. “If we can remove polyps before they can even grow into cancer, it seems like a no-brainer. The alternative is a potential life-altering cancer diagnosis down the line. I’m very happy that we can provide free colonoscopies.”


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