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January 10, 2023

UVA, Community Health Centers Expand Cancer Screenings for Underserved

Portrait of UVA Cancer Center's mobile mammography van.

To expand access to cancer screenings for underserved groups in Central, Southside and Southwest Virginia, UVA Cancer Center is establishing partnerships with community health centers serving those regions.

One partnership is with Central Virginia Health Services and Tri-Area Community Health, and a second is with Blue Ridge Medical Center. Both partnerships are supported by $500,000 grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve equity in cancer screenings. The three health centers serve all patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for nearly 600,000 deaths each year, according to HHS. which notes that significant disparities remain in cancer screenings and follow-up care based on patients’ income, health insurance and race or ethnicity. 

The HHS grants are designed to support President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which includes closing the gap in cancer screenings among its goals. 

The partnerships will have three core elements:

Provide easier access to breast and colorectal cancer screenings: Patient navigators will assist patients in accessing and completing screenings, with programs modeled on a successful pilot program with Central Virginia Health Services that provided free colorectal cancer screenings to uninsured patients. “Over the last four years, CVHS and UVA collaborated on colon cancer screening, and it was a major success helping hundreds of patients in our communities,” said Randall Bashore, MD, clinical director for Central Virginia Health Services. “I’m excited that we now have the opportunity to expand on that experience working with UVA and Tri-Area Community Health to address both colon and breast cancer screening.”

Raise awareness of cancer screenings: A UVA Cancer Center outreach specialist will work with community organizations in the areas served by these community health centers to raise awareness of the benefits of getting screened for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer.” said Rick Shinn, CEO of Blue Ridge Medical Center. “We want to make sure everyone in our service area has access to care, and this grant will expand our services to people that would otherwise would not be able to get screened.”

Share best practices for improving screening rates: UVA Cancer Center will bring together health centers from across the state through the Virginia Health Center Cancer Screening Consortium to work on improving cancer screening rates and sharing best practices. “We look forward to collaborating with, and learning from, other health centers cross the Commonwealth," said James Werth, Jr., CEO of Tri-Area Community Health. "We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the UVA Cancer Center and their willingness to help health centers like us help as many people as possible."

Ensuring equity in access to cancer care and finding new ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer are primary missions of UVA Cancer Center, which is one of only 53 cancer centers in the country designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. The designation recognizes elite cancer centers with the most outstanding cancer programs in the nation. Comprehensive Cancer Centers must meet rigorous standards for innovative research and leading-edge clinical trials. UVA Health Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in Virginia.

“Having more Virginians up-to-date on their cancer screenings is vital to saving lives,” said Wendy Cohn, Associate Director of UVA Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement. “We’re proud to work alongside our community partners to prevent cancer and cancer-related deaths.”

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