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Wellforce members sign pledge to increase colorectal cancer screening rates

BOSTON (March 15) -   The members of Wellforce – Tufts Medical CenterCircle Health (including Lowell General Hospital), Hallmark Health (including Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford) and New England Quality Care Alliance – today announced that they have made the pledge to help increase colorectal cancer screening rates by supporting the 80% by 2018 initiative. This initiative, led by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (an organization co-founded by ACS and CDC), has a shared goal to have 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

Tufts MC signing the colorectal cancer screening pledge.“There are a few reasons why New England hasn’t yet reached that 80% threshold,” said Joel Weinstock, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology/Hepatology at Tufts Medical Center. “People are worried that colonoscopies are painful or embarrassing.  They think they aren’t at risk because they don’t have a family history of colon cancer or polyps.  Or perhaps they’re concerned about the complexity of the test and the need to get a ride home afterwards. We are constantly working with our patients to help alleviate their stress and make the screening process as easy as possible for them. We’ve signed the 80% by 2018 pledge with our Wellforce partners to renew our focus on removing the barriers and increasing screening rates.”

Hallmark signing the colorectal cancer screening pledge.“Hallmark Health is proud to support the 80% by 2018 initiative,” said Michael Newman, MD, FACP, CPE, president and chief medical officer of Hallmark Health Medical Associates and Hallmark Health System vice president. “By bringing more education and understanding to the importance of getting screened, we’ve seen screening rates increase, but there is always work to be done. Colonoscopy saves lives.”

Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 135,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and more than 50,000 will die from the disease, despite the fact it is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented. Through proper colorectal cancer screening, doctors can find and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) in the colon, before they become cancerous. Removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.

The American Cancer Society recommends screening begin at age 50. When there is a family history of early onset colorectal cancers or other risk factors, the ACS and others support beginning screening at a younger age. 

Lowell General signing the colorectal cancer screening pledge.“The key to successful colon cancer treatment is the diagnosis of cases in the early stages ‑ it makes such a tremendous difference in patient outcomes,” said Murat Anamur, MD, Chief of Oncology at Lowell General Hospital and Medical Director of Cancer Care Associates. “Colon cancer is largely preventable, and diagnostic screening has a proven track record for saving lives. At Circle Health and Lowell General Hospital, we have a committed community of medical oncologists, primary care physicians, specialists, and gastroenterologists all working in collaboration to grow our colon cancer education and outreach programs to ensure we meet the goals of the 80% by 2018 initiative.”

Part of the 80% by 2018 goal is to leverage the energy of multiple and diverse partners to empower communities, patients and providers to increase screening rates. The 80% by 2018 initiative consists of health care providers, health systems, communities, businesses, community health centers, government, non-profit organizations and patient advocacy groups who are committed to getting more people screened for colorectal cancer to prevent more cancers and save lives.

The New England Quality Care Alliance (NEQCA), a Wellforce member, is one example of how diverse organizations are putting their energy and resources behind meeting the 80% by 2017 goal.

“Having recently lost my Mom to colon cancer, I’m proud NEQCA has signed on to this initiative,” said Jatin Dave, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer at NEQCA. “Working with 13 local care organizations and more than 1,700 physicians from Lowell to Cape Cod, NEQCA delivers innovative programs and services that help provide better care and better health outcomes for patients across Eastern Massachusetts. NEQCA’s Practice Quality Associates have helped many of our physician practices increase the number of colorectal cancer screenings by taking a more proactive approach to patient outreach.”

About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 2 million volunteers saving lives in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society's efforts have contributed to a 23 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. 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 and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

About Wellforce
Wellforce is the health system formed by Tufts Medical Center and Circle Health in 2014. In January 2017, Hallmark Health became the third founding member. Wellforce provides hospitals and physicians with a better option for collaboration. Our system brings together the strengths of academic medicine and community care in a model that respects both equally. Our independent-minded, value-driven members are dedicated to providing patients with the highest-level of care when and where they want it. Wellforce includes nearly 3,000 physicians, 12,000 employees, four community hospital campuses, one academic medical center, a children’s hospital and $1.7 billion in revenue.

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