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ACS NCCRT Annual Meeting convenes around goal to increase colorectal cancer screening

Hundreds of colorectal cancer screening experts, advocates, and thought leaders from across the US gather in Texas.

More than 240 colorectal cancer screening experts, advocates, and thought leaders from across the US recently convened in Houston, TX, for the American Cancer Society National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) Annual Meeting.

It’s the first time the ACS NCCRT meeting was held in The Bayou City, and attendees hailed from more than 200-member organizations. Between Nov. 15-17, the diverse group shared ideas, innovations, and strategies for achieving the shared goal of reaching colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates of 80% in every community.

During the three-day meeting, presenters covered a wide range of topics including:

  • The latest trends in CRC screening data,
  • Actions to promote health equity and address screening disparities with targeted conversations on rural, LGBTQ, and the American Indian/Alaska Native populations,
  • Updates on early-age onset disease,
  • News on the CRC policy landscape, and
  • Strategies for improving follow-up colonoscopy rates.

But the meeting wasn’t all business, as attendees also celebrated ACS Senior Vice President, Cancer Screening, Dr. Bob Smith’s 27-year tenure as ACS NCCRT vice chair. Dr. Smith is transitioning into a new role as ACS NCCRT senior scientific advisor. During his time as vice chair, he led many impactful efforts to tangibly and positively change policy and guidelines. The NCCRT would not be where it is today without his visionary leadership and unwavering commitment. Dr. Smith is pictured here, at right, receiving a plaque from ACS NCCRT Chair Steve Itzkowitz, MD.

David Lieberman, MD, also received the ACS NCCRT Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Lieberman, MD is professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Oregon Health and Science University. He has contributed to huge strides in the fields of colorectal cancer genetics, screening, and treatment from his start in the 1980s to now.

Pictured above are members of the ACS NCCRT Steering Committee and ACS team members. 

Much thanks to the ACS NCCRT team for making this happen, including Kaitlin Sylvester, Emily Bell, Aubree Thelen, Sarah Shafir, Bob Smith, Kathy Goss, and Laura Makaroff. Also, thank you to ACS and ACS CAN presenters Jennifer Hoque, Cecily Blackwater, Rebecca Dabbs, Priti Bandi, Rebecca Siegel, and Caroline Um. Pictured above are ACS and ACS CAN team members. 

If you couldn’t attend, no problem! Slides and select recordings will be available on the ACS NCCRT website in December. Sign up for CRC News alerts to be the first to know when they are posted. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page and fill out the contact form.

  • National Advisory Council on Health Equity convenes

    Attendees provided feedback on how to enhance ACS’ health equity action.

    The National Advisory Council on Health Equity held its quarterly meeting in Atlanta on Nov. 7 to learn more about:

    1. ACS’ caregiver resources, presented by Rachel Cannady, strategic director, Caregiving, and for the Council to offer ideas on how ACS can reach specific populations with ACS’ resources,
    2. VOICES of Black women, presented by LaRhonda Jackson, marketing director, Mission Execution, and for the council to share their thoughts on how ACS can be partner with communities who might not see us in their community and beyond ACS’ traditional, new partners to consider connecting with, and
    3. Efforts to combat inequities faced by adolescent and young adult cancer patients, presented by Maggie Rogers, director, Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Support, and for council members to share their experiences in working with these populations.  

    Trista Hargrove, director, Media Advocacy, Health Equity, also provided an update on what ACS CAN has been doing to advance health equity at the federal, state, and local levels.

    Council background

    Since 2018, the National Advisory Council on Health Equity, supported by ACS’ Patient Support Health Equity team and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, serves in an advisory role to ACS with the aim of realizing the organizations’ vision, purpose, and goals for health equity. The council does this by providing ACS and ACS CAN with feedback on how to enhance the organization’s health equity action. The 15 members of the council represent voices, perspectives, and lived experiences from rural, Hispanic/Latino. LGBTQ+, African American/Black, and Native American communities and have expertise in health equity, social determinants of health, and health related social needs; building assets and expanding economic opportunities for disadvantaged populations; community-initiated advocacy; evidence-informed interventions and policies; organizational change; health communication; and indicators and metric.

    The council meetings not only help influence ACS’ actions, but they serve as opportunities for the participating members and their organizations to share the work they are doing and to take the lessons from ACS and others council members and apply them to their own action to advance health equity.

    More feedback from Nov. 7 gathering

    Council members shared how excited they were about ACS investing in the research study to better understand the complex drivers of incidence, mortality, and resilience of cancer and other health conditions among Black women. They also expressed their appreciation for ACS’ caregiver resources, which they said need to be amplified, and the organization’s efforts aimed at supporting adolescent and young adults.

    Additional council feedback included:

    • They conveyed the importance of making sure the perspectives of people who have the greatest disparities are included in the discussions ACS has in the development and implementation of our work.
    • Continue to connect with other peers who are going through their health equity journeys, and
    • Health equity is a journey that takes time to do it right; it doesn’t happen overnight.

  • ACS navigation training and credentialing program launching in January

    Program ​pilot includes more than 90 individuals across the country.

    The evidence is clear: navigation improves outcomes at the patient, caregiver, and health system level. The American Cancer Society will be launching a cancer focused, patient navigation curriculum and credentialing program for non-clinical navigation in early 2024. Building upon 30 years of experience in navigation research and implementation, team members have been hard at work during the past several months to bring this program to life, with key updates in the past few weeks.

    Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their final rule for the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule – a decision which means there is now a reliable reimbursement pathway to support professional navigators performing non-clinical duties. 

    This decision is key for the new ACS cancer focused patient navigation curriculum and credentialing program for non-clinical navigation, as the White House has specifically tapped our organization as part of this work.

    “This ruling is a game changer, wherein all boats rise through enhancing access to oncology navigation services. Patient navigation increases understanding of cancer care plans, improves patient outcomes, reduces unnecessary treatment cost, and increases patient satisfaction,” ACS and ACS CAN CEO Dr. Karen Knudsen said about the decision. “The reimbursement strategy within this final rule is a meaningful first step toward expanded and sustainable access to critical services for patients with cancer and other serious illnesses.”

    ACS is on track to launch this new program beginning in January 2024. The goal of the program will be to ensure the nation’s professional navigators are receiving high-quality training that supports advancement and sustainability of the profession, resulting in comprehensive care for people with cancer and their families. 

    In the meantime, Patient Support Pillar team members are piloting the program with more than 90 individuals across the country who provide navigation services in a wide variety of settings and working across the enterprise and with external navigation experts to ensure success.

    “At ACS we believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer,” said ACS Senior Vice President for Cancer Support Dr. Shanthi Sivendran. “That’s why ACS has prioritized this work and played a key role in navigation for more than 30 years. ACS has a unique ability to represent the voice of those touched by cancer. We are so excited to use that ability to launch this program for this critical workforce.”

    What you can do 

    How can ACS team members and volunteers help support this new ACS navigation training and credentialing program?

    • Learn more about the many ways ACS supports navigation.
    • Check out the new web site for the navigation training and credentialing program.
    • Look for more information in the coming weeks on learning collaboratives and more related to the program.
    • Specific team members will have training opportunities related to the program. Stay tuned for more information.
    • For questions not addressed in the areas above, please reach out via this link.

  • Great American Smokeout encourages a smoke-free future

    ACS provides support for overcoming tobacco addiction to commit to healthier living.

    To combat the leading cause of preventable death, ACS is hosting the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 16 to encourage people who smoke to make a plan to quit for a healthier future. Now in its 48th year, the Great American Smokeout is held on the third Thursday of November. This year ACS encourages people who smoke to commit to smoke-free lives, not just for a day, but year-round. 

    Understand the urgency

    Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the US, accounting for about 1 in 5 deaths each year. While cigarette smoking rates have continued to decline in recent years due in part to the success of smoking cessation efforts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 28 million US adults currently smoked cigarettes in 2021.

    Some benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate. Those who have quit smoking report fewer illnesses such as colds and the flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia, and tend to feel healthier than people who still smoke. Just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. In just 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. In as little as 2 weeks to 3 months, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

    Learn more

    To support this annual campaign, ACS developed Empowered to Quit, a smoking cessation program. Empowered to Quit helps people who smoke select a quit date, understand and manage their cravings, regulate symptoms of withdrawal, and set reminders of why they chose to quit smoking. Participants receive tailored emails and tools designed for every step of their journey.

    In addition to smoking cessation, annual lung cancer screening is recommended for certain people and can reduce tobacco-related deaths. ACS recently announced updates to its lung cancer screening guideline, expanding eligibility to nearly 5 million more Americans who smoke or formerly smoked. The updated guideline recommends yearly screening for lung cancer for people aged 50 to 80 years old who smoke or formerly smoked and have a 20-year or greater pack-year history. The guideline also eliminates the ‘years since quitting’ requirement.

    To make access to screenings easier, ACS has partnered with Color Health to offer a new, free screening access program. The convenient Lung Screening Access Program makes it easy for those who smoke or previously smoked to determine their eligibility and identify screening options – all with support from Color’s care advocates and clinicians who will order and write referrals for low-dose CT (ldCT) scans and book appointments for eligible individuals with lung cancer screening providers.

    Like and share

    Look for posts on FacebookX, and other ACS social media accounts.

  • ACS and Color Health launch free Lung Screening Access Program

    Supporting updated ACS guideline, move aims to reach 20M Americans who smoke or previously smoked.

    The American Cancer Society and Color Health on Nov. 16 announced plans to provide a convenient, free screening access program for the almost 20 million Americans who are now eligible for lung cancer screenings under the updated ACS guideline. The new program makes it easy for those who smoke or previously smoked to determine their eligibility and identify screening options – all with support from Color’s care advocates and clinicians who will order and write referrals for low-dose CT (ldCT) scans and book appointments for eligible individuals with lung cancer screening providers.

    Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States. Research shows, annual screening with ldCT scans reduces lung cancer deaths by up to 20%, but less than 6% of eligible Americans get screened. Low adherence can be attributed to difficulty navigating the healthcare system, and stigma associated with lung cancer – especially among people who currently or used to smoke. The Lung Screening Access Program helps overcome these barriers, helping to increase the number of eligible Americans who get screened.

    Through this impact partnership, any individual, regardless of employer benefits or insurance provider, can receive the following at no cost:

    • Access to a digital, HIPAA-compliant lung cancer risk assessment tool
    • Guidance on whether or not they are recommended for lung cancer screening based on the updated ACS guideline
    • Consultation with Color Care Advocates and clinicians
    • A referral for a scan
    • Support booking the scan, including navigating coverage and prior authorization

    “With our updated lung cancer screening guideline, the next step is to directly support individuals in accessing these potentially life-saving services," said Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO, American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Action Network. "We hope this program will close screening gaps by making the basics of screening – eligibility guidance; medical oversight/care; and support in finding and booking screenings covered by plans — available to all. This work is singularly focused on encouraging action by giving patients direct access paths that we know will overcome barriers."

    “Until there's a cure, we know that early detection of lung cancer is the most important intervention,” said Othman Laraki, CEO, Color Health. “With a 6% screening rate across the U.S., we know that giving patients the direct tools to access care is more critical than ever. We're proud to support the ACS mission by making an impact on lung cancer across the country.” 

    To gauge your risk for lung cancer and find out more about how to detect cancer early, click here.

  • Hope Lodge featured on Good Morning America

    Segment spotlighted cross-country tour full of smiles and surprises.

    Good Morning America’s GMA3 recently featured our Hope Lodge program, which runs communities across the country that provide people with cancer a free place to stay during treatment, in a moving segment. Watch the full clip here, and like and share it on X (formerly Twitter.)

    The segment spotlighted the “R.A.K.E. Gives Hope Tour” which launched on Aug. 23 in Rochester, NY, and culminated on Oct. 10 in Tampa, FL. ACS worked with television writer and comedian Ricky Smith and his nonprofit Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere, or R.A.K.E, to visit all 31 Hope Lodge locations with smiles and surprises. The tour was Ricky’s opportunity to amplify the work of the American Cancer Society after losing his sister, Rhonda Ferguson, to cancer in 2021.

    Other local news coverage included:

    ACS is grateful to Wil Gholston, defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and an ACS Sports Ambassador, for his $50,000 match on donations and his kindness in visiting our Hope Lodge guests.

  • #NourishMyHealth to promote nutrition as a way to reduce disease risk

    Campaign will feed tools to partners to foster awareness with consumers.

    The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, along with leading health organizations ‒ the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association® (ADA), the American Heart Association, and the Food is Medicine Institute at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University ‒ have launched Nourish My Health, a national public education campaign focused on helping Americans embrace the protective health benefits that nutritious food provides in reducing the risk of diet-related conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer. Poor nutrition is the number one cause of poor health outcomes in the United States, with billions of dollars spent annually on preventable, diet-related diseases.

    The integrated campaign was conceived and developed as a commitment by NACDS to the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and the associated national strategy to end hunger, improve nutrition, and reduce diet-related diseases. Nourish My Health will seek to reach millions of Americans, including those who live in rural areas and/or communities that are underserved, focusing on regions with disproportionate risk of diet-related diseases. The campaign will amplify the importance of preventive screenings and raise awareness of the power of nutritious food as a part of lifestyle changes to improve health outcomes.

    The campaign website,, will serve as the campaign hub for information and resources from the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association®, and the American Heart Association. It will also feature the Healthy Food Guide and a five-question food and nutrition security survey from the Food is Medicine Institute at Tufts University through a digital platform hosted by Higi, a health engagement company.

    “The link between diet and cancer is often overlooked,” said Laura Makaroff, senior vice president of cancer prevention at the American Cancer Society. “An estimated four to five percent of cancer cases can be attributed to a poor diet. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of several types of cancer and improve overall quality of life.”

    Currently, more than 10 chain pharmacy companies have indicated their intent to participate at select locations through the end of the year, leveraging scheduled wellness events, immunization clinics, and American Diabetes Month in November.

  • Have you caught the latest episodes of ACS' new podcast?

    Mind. Body. Spirit. Cancer. with Pat Croce will delve into cancer stories of well-known figures.

    From television host Maria Menounos, to retired major league baseball player John Kruk, notable figures will share an intimate look into their cancer journey during the new limited series podcast: “Mind. Body. Spirit. Cancer. with Pat Croce,” produced by the American Cancer Society.

    During each video and audio podcast, Croce, a cancer survivor, entrepreneur, and New York Times best-selling author, will delve into the cancer stories of some of today’s most well-known figures in entertainment, sports, literature, and more. Each episode will bring uplifting, informative, and mission-driven storytelling to cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and the community at large.

    “ACS friend, advocate and volunteer, Pat Croce, understands the powerful link between mind, body, and soul when it comes to battling and surviving cancer,” said CEO Dr. Karen Knudsen. “The podcast will serve as a vehicle to inspire others to share their stories, get screened and support our vision to end cancer as we know it, for everyone.”

    Dr. Knudsen will join Croce during each episode for a segment called ACS Mission Moment to discuss topics including prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship. Together they will dive deeper into the science behind cancer care and how ACS can help patients, caregivers, and their families navigate a cancer diagnosis.

    Comedian Tig Notaro will join the series on Sept. 26 as the first guest and share her battle with stage two bilateral breast cancer and how difficult it was for her to look at herself following her surgery. 

    The remaining lineup includes:

    • John Kruk, a retired major league baseball player and current sports broadcaster, opens up to Pat on Oct. 10.
    • Maria Menounos, a television host and actress, shares her story on Oct. 24.
    • Stephen A. Smith, a sports commentator, analyst, and executive producer, joins the show on Nov. 7.
    • Jack Kornfield, a best-selling author and psychologist, sits down with Croce on Nov. 21.

    How you can help

    Please amplify! In addition to resharing social media content from the ACS brand channels, all ACS team members and volunteers can help promote the podcast series by posting on social media. Don't forget to tag ACS in your posts! Take note of our accounts on each platform:

    • Instagram: @americancancersociety
    • X (Twitter): @americancancer
    • TikTok: @americancancersociety
    • Facebook: @AmericanCancerSociety
    • Threads: @americancancersociety

    For more information, or to tune in to all episodes, visit

  • ACS PAWS pilot program is unleashed

    Grants awarded to six hospitals for funding therapy dogs to support children with cancer.

    This summer, ACS expanded its impact on pediatric patients with cancer through the launch of ACS PAWS (Pups Assisting with Support), a pilot grant program that aims to improve the quality of life for hospitalized children with cancer through support from specially trained therapy dogs. Now, the program has awarded the six children’s hospitals $8,000 each to support existing therapy dog programs.

    Collectively, the projects are estimated to impact more than 10,000 children and families impacted by cancer. Funding during the 12-month grant period will supplement veterinary costs, adoption, training for the handler or staff members, food, grooming, beds, toys and improving or maintaining dog facilities for the following:

    • Children’s Hospital Orange County (CHOC) in Orange, CA
      • Lois, a 4-year-old golden retriever/yellow lab mix
    • Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC
      • Company, a 3-year-old golden retriever
    • Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL
      • Brea, a 5-year-old yellow lab
    • Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville, KY 
      • Luna, a 2-year-old black lab
    • Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX
      • Bailey, a 7-year-old golden retriever  
      • Pinto, a 7-year-old golden retriever
      • Pluto, a 5-year-old golden retriever
      • Cohen, a 5-year-old golden retriever
      • Angus, a 4-year-old golden mix
    • UW Health Hospitals and Clinics - American Family Childrens Hospital in Madison, WI
      • Cola, a 3-year-old golden doodle mix
      • Kiko, a 4-year-old golden doodle

    Widely considered a safe and desirable intervention for children with cancer, animal-assisted therapy for hospitalized children has been shown to decrease symptoms like anxiety, stress, depression, and pain, and increase quality of life indicators like feelings of joy and calmness, positive memories from hospitalization, and improved sense of well-being.

    From birth, therapy dogs who work full-time in children’s hospitals receive extensive, specialized training to provide goal-orientated, therapeutic interventions and emotional support. The ACS PAWS grant program fills a critical gap for institutions as animal-assisted therapy programs are primarily supported by philanthropy efforts.

    “We’re excited that this new initiative allows us to focus on the unique needs of children with cancer and their families,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer. “By supporting children during a challenging time, therapy dogs and their handlers play a supportive role in improving the hospital environment during cancer treatment and reducing suffering. It’s another way we’re working to connect with families that need additional support during their cancer journey.”

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