The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has just awarded The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler a grant in the amount of $1,952,724. This grant is part of CPRIT’s larger awarding announcement, which includes 58 academic research grants, 10 prevention awards and three product development research awards, totaling nearly $136 million. UT Health Science Center at Tyler’s award is one of the ten prevention grant awardees.

“We are happy that the diligent work of the colorectal cancer team was recognized as one of the ten prevention grant awardees across Texas,” commented Paul McGaha, DO, MPH, who oversees the project. “We look forward to continuing this important work on behalf of our fellow East Texans.”

The awarding of this grant will afford expansion of a current ongoing project aimed to prevent colorectal cancer in East Texans via awareness and screenings. The program, which launched four years ago, has screened thousands of uninsured people in East Texas.

“Our screenings are provided free of cost for people who don’t have insurance, but that is not the only group that isn’t getting screened adequately,” said McGaha. McGaha then expanded that many insured people aren’t regularly going to the doctor, so they won’t be told to get screened. Even many of the people who do get a recommendation from their provider to get screened won’t follow up.

McGaha understands the reluctance. Colonoscopies are invasive procedures. They are also time-consuming, once you add in the prep before and the recovery from anesthesia after. He’s convinced, however, that access to screening and high-quality information really can change the equation.

East Texas carries the state as the region with the highest death rates from colorectal cancer. However, McGaha and his team, with the awarding of this grant, plan to expand upon the work they have already done. Over the course of the program’s four years of work, 56 of the people screened have exhibited precursors to colorectal cancer and 14 more have been diagnosed with cancer. All of them have been referred for further treatment. Additionally, the program has additionally educated more than 1,500 health professionals across 19 counties in the region and provided education and outreach to thousands more.

Part of this education and outreach derives from a unique inflatable approach. In order to help spread the word about the need for screening, McGaha and his colleagues travel around the region with a massive inflatable colon. People can walk through the colon and see both precancerous and cancerous lesions.

“It’s about the size of an office,” said McGaha. “It gives people a great sense of what the doctor is looking for.”

The inflatable colon, and other educational materials and activities, are intended both to funnel people directly into the screening program and to raise awareness, more broadly, about the need to get screened.

For additional information on the colorectal cancer screening program, click here.