Evaluation of a patient navigation program to promote colorectal cancer screening in rural Georgia, USA

Cancer. 2013 Aug 15;119(16):3059-66. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28033. Epub 2013 May 29.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Early detection through recommended screening has been shown to have favorable treatment outcomes, yet screening rates among the medically underserved and uninsured are low, particularly for rural and minority populations. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a patient navigation program that addresses individual and systemic barriers to CRC screening for patients at rural, federally qualified community health centers.

Methods: This quasi-experimental evaluation compared low-income patients at average risk for CRC (n = 809) from 4 intervention clinics and 9 comparison clinics. We abstracted medical chart data on patient demographics, CRC history and risk factors, and CRC screening referrals and examinations. Outcomes of interest were colonoscopy referral and examination during the study period and being compliant with recommended screening guidelines at the end of the study period. We conducted multilevel logistic analyses to evaluate the program's effectiveness.

Results: Patients at intervention clinics were significantly more likely than patients at comparison clinics to undergo colonoscopy screening (35% versus 7%, odds ratio = 7.9, P < .01) and be guideline-compliant on at least one CRC screening test (43% versus 11%, odds ratio = 5.9, P < .001).

Conclusions: Patient navigation, delivered through the Community Cancer Screening Program, can be an effective approach to ensure that lifesaving, preventive health screenings are provided to low-income adults in a rural setting.

Keywords: cancer screening; colonoscopy; colorectal cancer; community health centers; community health workers; program evaluation; rural health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Navigation / organization & administration*
  • Patient Navigation / standards
  • Program Evaluation