Colorectal Cancer Alliance Announces $3.4 Million in Partnership Funding to Raise Awareness and Address Health Disparities among Communities of Color

Advocacy Groups | <b>Colorectal Cancer Alliance</b>

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance announced July 26 a major investment by three industry partners to address health inequities in colorectal cancer.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the nation’s largest colorectal cancer non-profit, announced July 26 a major investment by three industry partners to address health inequities in colorectal cancer, specifically among underserved communities who face barriers to access to screening and prevention. Black Americans are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die from it.

Exact Sciences®, the maker of Cologuard®, an effective and noninvasive screening option for average risk adults age 45 and older, the toilet tissue brand Cottonelle®in partnership with Black health education non-profit BLKHLTH®, and LetsGetChecked®, a virtual care company that allows customers to manage their health from home, providing direct access to telehealth services, pharmacy, and laboratory tests with at-home sample collection kits for a wide range of health conditions, have donated a combined $2.4M in funding and colorectal cancer screening tests to support the Alliance’s work to break down barriers to healthcare, provide resources, reduce health disparities, and improve outcomes.

In addition to corporate leaders, the Alliance is enlisting support from influential philanthropists, including tech entrepreneur and young-onset colorectal cancer survivor, Brooks Bell, who is dedicated to removing the stigma around colonoscopy and saving lives through prevention. Driven by her own cancer experience, Bell and her husband created the Brooks Bell and Jesse Lipson Colon Cancer Prevention Fund at the Alliance. They have donated $1 million to kickstart a new brand for colorectal cancer to educate people that colon cancer is “the preventable cancer.” A core part of this brand is to raise money for a health equity fund that will be hosted by the Alliance.

“As the leading colorectal cancer advocacy organization, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance recognizes the value of partnerships in expanding our reach and broadening access to preventive screenings for populations that experience the greatest disparities in health access,” said Michael Sapienza, the Alliance’s chief executive officer. “The Alliance has a responsibility to help increase access to screening and care, working with industry and healthcare partners like Exact Sciences, LetsGetChecked, Cottonelle® and BLKHLTH and generous advocates like Brooks Bell, to ensure that underserved individuals, particularly Black Americans or those who are uninsured or underinsured, have access to lifesaving screening options.”

Exact Sciences®, a leader in cancer testing committed to providing earlier answers and life-changing treatment guidance, has donated $1 million in Cologuard® stool DNA tests. The program will launch in Washington, DC in partnership with two health systems. The Alliance is exploring other markets and provider organizations that reach the underserved to expand the program.

Cottonelle® in partnership with BLKHLTH®, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce the impact of racism on Black health through education and action, partnered with the Alliance to create a dedicated Screening Assistance Fundto support eligible Black patients in need of colonoscopies. Through their partnership, Cottonelle®, BLKHLTH and the Alliance are working together to address stigmas, reduce barriers and provide resources associated with screening for colorectal cancer among Black Americans. In under 90 days, the fund has already helped to provide free colonoscopies to nearly 40 Black patients in need of care.

To amplify the nonprofit's mission to increase and provide safe screenings options post COVID-19, a leading virtual care company LetsGetChecked® partnered with the Alliance by donating $100,000 and $1 million worth of its Colon Cancer Screening Tests with a home sample collection — to be distributed to uninsured and underserved populations. The goal is for these kits to be distributed throughout the year, and individuals can visit the Alliance site and take the quiz to see if they qualify and are eligible for a free Colon Cancer Screening Test.

Individuals who want to find out if they qualify for a free colorectal cancer screening test should contact the Colorectal Cancer Alliance helpline at 877-422-2030 or complete our online screening survey at quiz.getscreened.org. Organizations interested in partnering with us should contact our headquarters at screen@ccalliance.org.

"LetsGetChecked partnered with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in March 2021 to raise awareness about colon cancer and the lifesaving importance of early testing and detection," said Peter Foley, Founder and CEO of LetsGetChecked. "We are honored that our donation of $100,000 and $1 million worth of LetsGetChecked’s Colon Cancer Screening Tests has served to raise awareness of preventative measures and get people screened."

“Exact Sciences is committed to reaching those most impacted by lack of access to quality care and improving disparities in healthcare outcomes,” emphasized Dr. Paul Limburg, Chief Medical Officer for Screening at Exact Sciences. “That’s why we’re a proud partner with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to provide donated Cologuard test kits to increase screening in underserved and underinsured communities.We believe this initiative will change lives and make a significant impact in our collective fight against colorectal cancer.”

“Health issues negatively impact Black people at disproportionately higher rates, in large part due to the barriers created by systemic racism. This is especially true for colorectal cancer,” says Matthew McCurdy, co-founder and President of BLKHLTH. “In just a few months, it’s amazing to see all the people we’ve been able to reach with critical colorectal cancer screening information and free colonoscopies as a result of our partnership with Cottonelle®and the fund we've created with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.”

At the start of the COVID, colorectal cancer screenings dropped roughly 90% and diagnoses fell by 32%. By June 2020, this decline in screening put 18,000 people at risk for delayed or missed diagnoses which will certainly lead to additional deaths from this preventable disease. Even after healthcare facilities began to see patients again, we closed 2020 with screening colonoscopies down nearly 16%. Colorectal cancer is more likely to affect Black and American Indian/Alaska Native communities. Studies have also shown Hispanic populations are less likely to get screened for colon cancer than either Non-Hispanic White or Black Americans.

Colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. In its early stages, colorectal cancer is very treatable, with a five-year survival rate of 90%, making it highly stoppable through early detection. On average, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women, however, this varies widely according to individual risk factors. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 149,500 new cases this year, which is up from 147,950 in 2020, with approximately 53,000 passing away this year from the disease (up from 51,000 in 2020).

The latest with the disease

  • In May 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) lowered the recommended screening age to 45, which means an additional 20 million people in the U.S. are eligible to get checked for colorectal cancer.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 eligible Americans has not been screened for colorectal cancer
  • The Average Lifetime Risk for Men = 1 in 23.
  • The Average Lifetime Risk for Women = 1 in 25.
  • 1.4 million living Americans have been affected by colorectal cancer
  • Young-onset continues to be on the rise; rates for people under 55 increased 15% since 2000.

Colorectal cancer and the impact and disparities among African Americans

  • Black/African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates
  • Colorectal cancer death rates are 40% higher for African Americans
  • From 2009-2013, Colorectal Cancer incidence rates were 20% higher for African Americans.
  • Hispanics are getting screened at lower rates, with only slightly more than 50% of those eligible checked for colorectal cancer.

About the Colorectal Cancer Alliance

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colorectal cancer. Working with our nation of passionate allies, we diligently support the needs of patients and families, caregivers, and survivors; eagerly raise awareness of preventive screening; and continually strive to fund critical research. As allies in the struggle, we are fiercely determined to end colorectal cancer within our lifetime. For more information, visit ccalliance.org.