By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer,

Doctors Community Hospital is revamping its cancer awareness program for residents of Prince George’s County.  The hospital is merging its breast and colorectal education programs as part of a $3.5 million grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

This modification to a previously existing program will focus on health education and literacy with an emphasis on breast and colorectal cancers. It will remain available free of charge to uninsured and underinsured members of the community.

Doctors Community Hospital is revamping their cancer awareness for Prince George’s County residents, particularly focusing on breast and colorectal cancers. (Courtesy Photo)

“Cancer is among the top causes of death in Prince George’s County,” said Robin Webb-Williams, vice president at Doctors Community Hospital Foundation in a statement issued by the hospital.  “That’s why providing free cancer screenings is so important, especially in areas that don’t have convenient access to care.  This grant will help us reach more people who can truly benefit from these community health resources at no cost to them.”

This is the second time Doctors Community Hospital has been awarded the grant. As a result of this program, approximately 244 people were screened for colon cancer through the Cancer Prevention, Education, Screening and Treatment (CPEST) Program. CPEST provides free colorectal cancer screenings (colonoscopies) to Prince George’s County residents with low incomes and are facing gaps in coverage that may not allow for them to receive adequate care.

The mission of the free program is to educate all residents about the importance of early cancer detection and what steps should be followed if someone is diagnosed with the disease.  Most cancers, if detected early, are no longer the death sentence that many perceive. Routine cancer screenings are at the front of what the Doctors Hospital is trying to focus on communicating to the residents who take advantage of the program.

“People are now more aware of how they can prevent and how to deal with cancer than they were in the past,” Webb-Williams told the AFRO.  “Now we are dealing with the ancillary issues such as treatment programs and support guidance to help those who are close to someone who may be affected by various forms of cancer.”

Men and women, between 50 – 75  years old qualify for the program.  Those 50 and younger who have family histories of colorectal cancer are eligible as well.  In 2018, the hospital performed about 244 free colonoscopies that identified four cases of cancer. The Breast and Cervical Cancer program will service women who are uninsured and underinsured between ages 40-64.

Of the 647 women who were screened for breast cancer, nine breast cancer cases were identified.  There were 116 women screened for cervical cancer and there were no cases identified.

“Screenings are among the best ways to detect many types of cancer early and when they are often most treatable,” said Terrie Trimmer, director of the Center for Comprehensive Breast Care and Women’s Wellness at Doctors Community Hospital. “We are proud to be able to provide these life-saving screenings in underserved areas of our wonderfully diverse community.”

It is expected that when the final national cancer results from 2018 are released, more than 500,000 people died of colorectal disease. The last official statistics from Prince George’s County date back to the first year of the initial program in 2014. According to the American Cancer Society and the Prince George’s County Department of Health there were 344 cases of colorectal disease leading to 138 deaths.

This program will also have a nurse navigator who will help diagnosed patients coordinate medical care and identify additional community resources.