Fight CRC’s Research Featured at GI ASCO

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Fight CRC’s research, titled Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the colorectal cancer community: Barriers and Opportunities for Care, will be presented at the 2021 Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium (GIASCO) from January 15-17, 2021.

This conference is an opportunity to bring researchers, clinicians, advocacy organizations, and the patient community from around the globe to discuss the latest updates in gastrointestinal cancer research.

Background & Importance of the Research

Treatment disruptions and mental health concerns emerged as prevalent themes in both the survey and focus groups. Over one-third of survey respondents indicated facing treatment disruptions due to COVID-19, and a majority of colorectal cancer patients reported feeling nervous and anxious. Another primary concern among respondents was access to care. Respondents living in rural areas were more likely to have greater concerns about maintaining a supportive network than those living in suburban areas. 

“Our research underscores the need to address the various health inequities that exist among low income and rural populations, and the importance of understanding the nuanced needs of the colorectal cancer community. Clinicians, supportive care providers, and advocacy organizations need to be tailoring care delivery, increasing access to care, and preparing patients for the future with reliable and accurate resources amidst a pandemic.”

Anjee Davis, Fight CRC President

The research has become an invaluable resource, helping Fight CRC understand the landscape of what facing colorectal cancer in the time of COVID-19 means. As the organization rallies relentless champions of hope from all over the country, these findings will continue to inform conversations amongst advocacy organizations as well as amongst those offering clinical and supportive care.

The Research

Background: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused numerous disruptions across the cancer prevention and treatment landscape. Conservative modeling studies examining the effect of COVID-19 on cancer screening and treatment for breast and colorectal cancer (CRC) suggest that there will be 10,000 excess deaths from both cancers combined over the next decade. The goal of this analysis was to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the CRC community, including gaps and opportunities for improving access to care and survivorship needs, and to advocate for the best possible care through policy, education and engagement of the entire cancer ecosystem. 

Methods: In April 2020, Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) distributed an online survey to the colorectal cancer community. The survey was distributed through social media channels and targeted emails from April 24-May 5, 2020. Virtual focus groups were also conducted to gather rich qualitative data from cancer patients and caregivers about their experiences during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Results: In total, 222 individuals responded to the survey (survivors = 68%, caregiver = 12%, first degree family member = 8%, other = 8%), and 10 CRC survivors participated in focus groups (stage III = 30%, stage IV = 70%). Treatment disruptions and mental health were prevalent themes in both the survey and focus group. Over one-third of survey respondents indicated facing treatment disruptions (37%) and a majority (78%) of colorectal cancer patients reported feeling nervous and anxious. Another primary concern among respondents was access to care. Patients on Medicare were more likely than patients on private insurance to report having difficulties affording food and basic supplies. People living in rural areas were more likely to have greater concerns about maintaining a supportive network than those living in suburban areas. 

Conclusions: People with cancer face unique challenges as a result of the novel coronavirus, including treatment disruptions, increased feelings of anxiety, and financial concerns. Numerous health inequities also exist among low-income and rural patient groups. Identifying the barriers that patients face provides an opportunity to address the nuanced needs of the colorectal cancer community. Clinicians, supportive care providers, and advocacy organizations can tailor care delivery, increase access to care, and prepare patients for the future with reliable and accurate resources amidst a pandemic.


Be sure to follow Fight CRC on social media for the latest updates and register for Fight CRC’s follow-up webinar highlighting the latest research on January 25 at 1pm EST. We’ll unpack research presented at GIASCO with Dr. Smitha Krishnamurthi, a hematologist at the Cleveland Clinic; Reese Garcia, Fight CRC’s Senior Manager of Research Advocacy; and Wenora Johnson, Fight CRC research advocate and stage III survivor. This panel will bring a wide array of perspectives and insight to better understand where the research is headed, and what matters most to patients.

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