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  • Jan 23, 2023

New Research From CHA Tackles Disparities in Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates

A study published in Preventive Medicine shows that CHA is leading the way in delivering exceptional colorectal cancer screening rates for diverse patient populations and providing a model other health systems can emulate to tackle racial and ethnic disparities.

The study, whose authors include CHA's Ketan Sheth, MD, chief of the division of gastrointestinal and general surgery, Lorky Libaridian, MD, and Rumel Mahmood, senior business data analyst, along with former CHA surgeon Heidi Rayala, MD, examined records of more than 22,000 patients who had a primary care visit at CHA in 2018-2019. The team calculated an overall screening rate of 73 percent, which is on par with Massachusetts averages. However, the state numbers reflect the national racial and ethnic disparities in which people of color do not get screened as often as white people. In fact, Massachusetts' numbers show a screening rate of 56 percent of Hispanic individuals and 68 percent of Black individuals compared to 76 percent for white individuals.

The study reveals that health systems like CHA, with adaptive resources including robust interpreter access and extensive mental health services, can help close this equity gap. The results of the CHA study show Hispanics had screening rates of 78 percent and Portuguese/Azorean patients were at 79 percent. When the data was further stratified it revealed that Spanish speakers, in general, had the highest screening rate of nearly 80 percent. These far exceeded the average state screening rates for those populations.

"This study demonstrates that delivering culturally competent health care, a hallmark of CHA, may ameliorate traditional disparities in colorectal screening rates often seen in underserved ethnic communities," said Dr. Sheth. "These findings are certainly not surprising to many of us who work at CHA."

What are the next steps? "While the findings validate the quality of our colorectal screening initiatives, we want it to hold true for all cancer screening programs, and we will need to investigate more along those fronts," said Dr. Sheth. "These studies ultimately will provide important information that can help shape future health policy efforts and improve screening rates."


  • Benjamin Allar, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Rumel Mahmood, Cambridge Health Alliance
  • Gezzer Ortega, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Taïsha Joseph, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Lorky Libaridian, MD, Cambridge Health Alliance
  • Evangelos Messaris, MD, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Ketan Sheth, MD, Cambridge Health Alliance
  • Heidi Rayala, MD, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

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