Ask the Pharmacist – Colorectal cancer screenings in Hartford

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STORRS - When colorectal cancer is detected early, the survival rate is 90%. However, only 39% of CRCs are detected early, and the survival rate for late-stage disease is only 12%. Only 58% of people needing a colonoscopy actually receive it, with the rate much lower in poor and minority populations where only 20% of patients get screened. There is a novel idea to enhance colorectal cancer screenings happing in Hartford…

Last week we described how a lack of adequate health insurance coverage and the inability to take time off from work are prime reasons underserved communities are not getting adequate cholesterol screening and control. The same is true for colorectal cancer screening and we believe that we have the solution.

We are having community pharmacists at two Arrow Pharmacies in Hartford assess people without insurance or who have Medicaid or Medicare for their colorectal cancer risk and providing them with a FIT test to take home free of charge if they need screening.

The FIT test is similarly effective to colonoscopy as a screening test for colon cancer but is less expensive to acquire and quicker to perform. With the FIT test you actually take a piece of fecal material and put it on a special probe in the packet that gets mailed to UConn Health who will analyze it. If it comes back negative they let you know and give you tips on lowering your risk. If it comes back positive, they contact you and give you instructions on next steps like a colonoscopy. So it isn’t really a replacement but rather a way to dramatically reduce the number of people who need to be tested with colonoscopy and in this case, people who cannot bear the time off or the financial burden of having a colonoscopy.

We believe that the convenience of getting assessed and screened right in a community pharmacy and removing the financial burden associated with screening will have a major impact but we need to test it and see.

The project is actually taking place at the Arrow Pharmacy at 100 Woodland Street or 500 Farmington Ave in Hartford and they can give you more information as well. Dr Lisa Holle from UConn Health and the School of Pharmacy is coordinating this project and can be reached at 860-480-4723.

If you go to and click the “Ask the Pharmacist” icon you can see the recruitment flier which will give you much more information. We hope that the project will be a big success and will open the door to an expansion of this type of screening for other cities in Connecticut and projects that will touch on awareness and treatment of many other diseases in the community pharmacy as well.

Arrow Pharmacy, UConn School of Pharmacy and UConn Health are conducting a study to evaluate the outreach program. It’s aimed at improving understanding of colorectal cancer risk and improved screening rates. For more information on the study, go here.

Adults who read and speak English with Medicaid, Medicaid/Medicare, or no insurance are eligible for the study.

What will you receive?

  • A survey offered through our in-store kiosk about your colorectal cancer risk and knowledge about screening (approximate time 10 minutes)
  • An opportunity to discuss 1-on-1 your own risks for colorectal cancer and appropriate screening with one of our pharmacists (approximate time 15-20 minutes)
  • A no-cost colorectal cancer screening kit to be completed at home (approximate time 1-2 minutes)
  • A phone call with researcher about kit and questions (approximate time 5 minutes)
  • Conversation with a healthcare professional about results of screening (approximate time 15-20 minutes) and a possible follow-up visit with a UConn Health doctor or your own doctor for further screening
  • Follow-up electronic survey about colorectal cancer risk and knowledge about screening (approximate time 15-20 minutes)
  • A phone call with researcher 30-45 days after screening to get some feedback on screening and pharmacist discussion (approximate time 5 minutes)

How will you benefit?

  • Better understanding of your risks of developing colorectal cancer
  • No-cost colorectal cancer screening kit

All participants who complete the follow-up survey and pharmacist discussion with pharmacist will receive a $10 in-store coupon.

Michael White; Dept. Of Pharmacy Practice, UConn School Of Pharmacy