"At Kaiser Permanente, we believe that if there is more focus on prevention and education, rather than on illness, this country could eliminate or greatly decrease diseases such as cancer of the colon and rectum," said Dr. Jeffrey Weisz, oncologist and executive medical director for Kaiser Permanente Southern California. "We are proving this theory and putting it into practice with simple screening tests."

Weisz says screening is the most realistic approach to reducing new cases by finding noncancerous colorectal polyps and removing them before they become cancerous. Prior to 2006, Kaiser Permanente used several different screening methods, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and guaiac test kits, and was finding less than 50% participation from their eligible patients.

Weisz believes many patients are hesitant to follow these testing methods because they can be invasive, uncomfortable, and time-consuming. The guaiac test, a traditional FOBT, can also be considered inconvenient by patients. It is noninvasive and can be completed at home, but it requires multiple samples, as well as some medicinal and dietary restrictions. For these reasons, many patients did not voluntarily return the completed test kit.

In an effort to increase patient participation and the diagnosis of early colon cancers, Kaiser Permanente switched their annual screening test from the traditional guaiac kit to the FIT method in 2006. The OC FIT-CHEK® test, manufactured by Polymedco, is a quick and easy screening method that allows patients to perform the test at home, requiring only one sample collection and no changes to diet or medication.

Kaiser Permanente mailed the FIT at-home kits to thousands of their eligible members between the ages of 50 and 80, and followed up with automated phone call reminders. "When I received this kit from my doctor, I would never have guessed that it would save my life," said Dale Gordon from Rialto, Calif. "Colorectal cancer screening can be very personal, but being able to take this simple test at home made me get rid of any excuses to get screened. I am so grateful that I took that step. Thank you to the physicians at Kaiser Permanente who treated me for stage 2 colorectal cancer. Had I kept giving excuses, I might be living with stage 4 cancer and not even know it."

Since 2006, Kaiser Permanente has screened more than 640,000 members with the new kits and saw compliance increase to 73% in 2009, a full 10% higher than the national average. With early detection, Kaiser Permanente has seen stage 4 colorectal cancers decrease by 30%.

"Preventative care is critical to the future of our country’s health—physically and economically," Weisz said. Last year, Kaiser Permanente spent $150 million on chemotherapy alone for advance cancer treatment. With early diagnosis, there is a strong likelihood that patients will not have to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. This is a better use of our patients’ health care dollars.

"For families faced with cancer, we want to offer them a good prognosis and a cost effective treatment plan. The key is annual screening to detect colorectal cancer at an early stage when it is treatable and beatable."

Source: Polymedco, Inc