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Community Partner Spotlight: The American Cancer Society

Look Good, Feel Good is just one of the programs the American Cancer Society offers to Memorial Hermann cancer patients. During the class, patients are taught how to minimize the cosmetic side effects associated with cancer treatment.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and Memorial Hermann both trace their origins to the early 1900s, and their collaboration dates back almost to their inception. Over the decades, the partnership has benefited residents of Houston and its surrounding communities through ACS programs that support patients and caregivers from the time of diagnosis through survivorship and Memorial Hermann’s extraordinary reach in the community. Both organizations share a commitment to saving lives through early diagnosis of cancer.

“Memorial Hermann has hospitals located throughout the Greater Houston area and access to very large numbers of family practice providers who refer patients to its Cancer Centers,” says Stacie Ellis, health systems manager for the American Cancer Society in Houston.

“The ACS provides resources to help hospitals expand their prevention programs, including community education about screenings for colorectal, breast and prostate cancer and more recently human papillomavirus. When it comes to developing preventive screening programs, Memorial Hermann’s support and range is an enormous help. Our shared goal is to detect, diagnose and treat cancer early.”

ACS - Look Good Feel Good

Look Good, Feel Good is just one of the programs the American Cancer Society offers to Memorial Hermann cancer patients. During the class, patients are taught how to minimize the cosmetic side effects associated with cancer treatment.

One of the current ACS-Memorial Hermann initiatives is the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, co-founded by the ACS, which has invited organizations around the country to commit to reducing the societal impact of colorectal cancer and work toward a shared goal of regular screening for 80 percent of adults age 50 and older – by 2018. “The colorectal cancer mortality rate has been decreasing since the 1980s due to increased awareness and screening,” Ellis says. “If we can achieve 80 percent nationally by 2018, we estimate that 277,000 cancer cases and 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths would be prevented by 2030. For Texas, 80 percent is an ambitious goal. Our state ranks 41st out of 50 states for screening rates – only about 63 percent of Texans over the age of 50 are now getting screened. We have quite a bit of work to do to get to 80 percent, but thanks to our collaboration with Memorial Hermann, we’re slowly getting there.”

The ACS estimates that 50 percent of colon cancer cases could be prevented through screening. “Colonoscopy is considered the definitive test for both the diagnosis of colon cancer and treatment through removal of polyps, but when it comes to testing, we always say the best test is the one that gets done,” Ellis says. “People age 50 and older with average cancer risk should be getting a colonoscopy every 10 years and a fecal occult blood test annually, based on ACS colorectal cancer screening guidelines. But sometimes there are cultural aversions or financial issues related to colonoscopy. Many people prefer to take a home test for fecal occult blood. Any test is better than no test.”

In addition to the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, the ACS and Memorial Hermann are developing a navigation process for connecting patients at the hospitals’ eight Cancer Centers to resources for virtually any need they have, including transportation, lodging through ACS’s hotel partners program, and access to care through federally funded health centers. “The American Cancer Society has an extensive database of support services that range from individuals and groups willing to offer yoga classes for cancer patients to financial assistance,” Ellis says. “We stay knowledgeable about resources offered by other not-for-profit organizations, such as the United Way and the National Lymphedema Network. We partner with Commission on Cancer-accredited hospitals to find barriers to care and to make screening more accessible to the community.”

Memorial Hermann’s eight Cancer Centers are accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC), which recognizes cancer care programs for their commitment to providing comprehensive, high-quality and multidisciplinary patient-centered care. The CoC is dedicated to improving survival and quality of life for cancer patients through standard setting, prevention, research, education and the monitoring of comprehensive quality care. The commission provides access to reporting tools to aid in benchmarking and improving outcomes at a facility as well as educational and training opportunities, development resources and advocacy.

“CoC-accredited hospitals are surveyed every three years to ensure that they maintain high quality of care standards,” Ellis says. “Each year the Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers share data with the CoC that demonstrates their commitment to patients to improve the quality of care, and by showing that they are providing the programs that specific communities actually need. The needs of consumers in Katy may differ from those who live downtown. Memorial Hermann does a great job of continually assessing needs around the city and designing their programs to meet them. It’s our goal at the ACS to continue to help them meet those needs.”