Sanford Health has recently made it easier to screen for colorectal cancer, the second-most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Individuals can use a kit that includes a return container with pre-paid postage that can be sent to Sanford Laboratories for testing.
It is a significant step forward because colorectal cancer is:
- Potentially life-threatening
- Often without symptoms
- Very treatable if caught early
Given these factors, screening can be a crucial element in detecting and treating the disease. It is why Sanford recommends colorectal screenings for individuals starting at age 45, regardless of family history, and it is why making these screenings more accessible and convenient is a valuable tool in lessening the impact of this cancer on public health.
A colonoscopy is the most accurate screening option and is recommended every 10 years for ages 45 and older. Stool sample tests are also recommended in many instances and are an easy, accurate and efficient way of monitoring your health.
Essentially, a stool test requires you to collect a stool sample at home and return the test kit to the lab for analysis. The stool is then checked for blood not visible to the naked eye. If the sample is normal, you’re advised to repeat the test yearly. If the sample is abnormal, you will need a colonoscopy.
Sanford Laboratories now does all colorectal screening tests through the Reference Laboratory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This centralization allows Sanford to standardize its testing process.
“As we grow as an organization, this centralization really promotes Sanford’s continued strategy of focusing on premier care for rural health care,” said Jonathann Berndt, laboratory manager at Sanford’s Reference Lab. “It allows a better fit in where people can access testing.”
The Sanford Polymedco Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) checks stool for blood and is part of an automated platform that assures quality control and consistency in results. At the same time, pre-paid shipping eliminates delays and additional costs for patients.
“It’s a better system,” Berndt said. “A lot of the people who were dissatisfied in the past did not like having to cover the cost and the labeling of the return mailers. It was anywhere between seven and eight stamps depending on how the packaging was provided. It was a huge dissatisfaction from our patients and was also a problem for our physicians who were dealing with patients who were not returning the tests.”
By making an important cancer screening more convenient, available and efficient, Sanford is putting its patients first, Berndt said. This is particularly true of those who live in rural areas. It’s about people, not a process.
“It’s fascinating to be a part of it,” he said. “There is not that one-way-of-mind thinking — it is truly what is best for the patient. It’s about what makes the most sense for the patient and the providers to get quality care no matter where you’re at. These initiatives really drive that focus.”
- Podcast: Colon cancer awareness and the importance of screenings
- Colonoscopies: Debunking the myths
- Colorectal cancer screening: Check out the options