Closing the Quality Gap: Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and ranks second for cancer-related deaths. However, it is also one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer. The key to reducing the burden of colorectal cancer lies in early detection. Regular screenings enable providers to detect and remove polyps before they develop into cancer.

To ensure high quality care, Colorectal Cancer Screening is a clinical quality measure across quality programs that tracks appropriate colorectal cancer screenings for patients. This measure is defined as:

The percentage of patients 45-75 years of age who had appropriate screening for colorectal cancer.

Appropriate screenings are defined by any one of the following:

  • Colonoscopy (every 10 years)
  • FIT-DNA Test, also referred to as Stool DNA with FIT Test (every 3 years)
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test: iFOBT, gFOBT, FIT (annually)
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years)
  • Computed Tomographic (CT) Colonography (every 5 years)

While routine screening can find cancer early when treatment is most effective, many adults do not get recommended screenings. To address this gap in care:

  1. Start earlier discussions about cancer risk and the importance of screening
  2. Convey the importance of colorectal cancer screening for health and wellness
  3. Provide education on the types of screenings and offer multiple options
  4. Discuss a patient’s fear around a colonoscopy; offer support and education as they make their decision
  5. Provide screening reminders during office visits
  6. If a patient is offered a mail-in kit for screening, provide guidance on the process and timeline for recheck
  7. In the EMR, record the date of the colorectal cancer screening, type of test, and result
  8. Identify subsets of the population who may need additional support in obtaining this screening
  9. Document and accurately code history of or active colorectal cancer and/or total colectomy

Colorectal cancer screening helps fight against a prevalent and potentially deadly disease. Healthcare professionals must emphasize the importance of screening to patients, provide guidance on the most suitable screening, and ensure compliance with screening guidelines. Doing so will contribute to early detection, improved survival rates, and the prevention of colorectal cancer.

About the Author

Tresa Shaw, MSN, RN

Tresa Shaw, MSN, RN

Director of Quality at CHESS