The American Cancer Society honored Kaiser Permanente’s Theodore R. Levin, MD, for his leadership in raising the health care system’s screening rates for colorectal cancer to among the highest in the nation, at its 6th annual Jewel Ball on Saturday, November 14, in Alamo, Calif.
About 137,000 new cases of cancer in the colon or rectum are diagnosed each year in the United States; with 50,000 deaths, it is the third leading cause of cancer death. Fortunately, screening tests are available that can find colorectal cancer early.
As chief of gastroenterology for Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area and clinical lead for colorectal cancer screening for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Dr. Levin launched an ambitious campaign in 2006 to improve colorectal cancer screening for adult Kaiser Permanente members.
By promoting new screening options — most notably annual at-home fecal immunochemical testing — and increasing member outreach, Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s screening rate jumped from 40 percent to more than 80 percent in just a few years. At the same time, the mortality of its members due to colorectal cancer declined.
“By finding and removing polyps in the colon that can become cancerous, we can stop progression of the disease,” Levin said. “We like to say that the best screening test is the one that gets done. While we do not advocate for any particular type of screening, the fecal immunochemical test has allowed us to screen more people, and prevent more cancers and cancer deaths.”
The National Colorectal Cancer Round Table launched a campaign last year with a national goal to screen 80 percent of adults age 50 and older for colorectal cancer by 2018.
“Kaiser Permanente Northern California currently screens 82 percent of its eligible members, making this region a national leader,” said Paula Aspiazu MPH, the American Cancer Society’s vice president of California Division Health Systems. “We are honored to recognize Dr. Levin’s efforts, which have saved lives by helping to prevent many thousands of cancers from developing in the first place.”