Cancer Screening and Prevention

CancerInformation UMass Cancer Center in collaboration with its affiliated clinical departments and divisions has a number of programs to detect cancers early in otherwise healthy, asymptomatic individuals. These Health maintenance screening services particularly include mammography for Breast Cancer, colonoscopy for Colon and Rectal cancer, Pap smears for cervical cancer and HPV testing, skin checks for melanoma screening, and a low dose Chest CT scanning program for patients at an increased risk for developing Lung cancer. There are also screening protocols employed in anatomic pathology for colorectal and uterine cancers to detect whether the cancerous tissue removed from an affected individual has the molecular characteristics of inherited cancer syndromes so that a patient’s family can be screened for members at risk of also developing cancer. Positive findings are conveyed to the patient’s treating physician and Primary Care Provider and also to Cancer Center genetics counselors who contact the patient for possible genetic counseling around these points. The Clinical Breast Program and Pancreatic Program also have “High Risk” clinics for individuals who have significantly increased risk of developing one of these cancers. These clinics are staffed with clinicians and geneticists, utilize extra modalities in their screening protocols such as MRIs, and endoscopic ultrasound, and have undertaken both chemoprevention and behavioral studies in these patients and their providers. The HCC group has published algorithms for the screening of cirrhotic patients who are risk for developing Hepatocellular Cancer.

Because the success of screening, cancer risk reduction and survivorship programs depends significantly upon primary care and patient behaviors, UMass Cancer Center faculty members in the Departments of Family Medicine and Community Health, Quantitative Health Sciences, The Meyers Primary Care Institute, and the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine have significant research efforts in the areas of behavioral and mind-body medicine as well as outcomes and epidemiology in order to develop and improve clinical practice and public policy initiatives that reduces the burden of cancer on individuals and communities. Descriptions of some of this effort are outlined below:

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

DFMCH is nationally recognized for promoting and conducting practice- based research which is committed to improving the health of individuals and the population at risk. The department has a special focus on serving the needs on the most vulnerable and collaborates widely with other divisions, departments and centers such as those listed on this page. Several Cancer Center/DFMCH faculty such as Drs Roger Luckmann and Barry Saver have particular interest and research programs in cancer screening for Breast, Prostate and colorectal cancers.

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

QHS also has expertise in cancer prevention and screening, especially tobacco prevention and control. Dr. Tom Houston is currently the PI on an NIH-funded R01 using the Internet to promote tobacco cessation. QHS collaborates with a wide variety of researchers in other divisions including those engaged in cancer screening and prevention research. For example, Dr. Houston and Dr. Stephanie Lemon in Preventive and Behavioral Medicine are the co PIs on an R25 training grant for cancer screening and prevention.

Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Programs and Centers 

Scientists from the following programs and centers are committed to collaborating with the UMass Cancer Center to assist scientists as they design, explore, and test evidence-based interventions in cancer prevention and control. Each center has a unique focus-obesity, tobacco dependence, mindfulness-based stress reduction, integrative nutrition, health disparities, and mHealth.

Worcester County Prevention Research Center (WC-PRC)-Stephanie Lemon, PhD

The Center for Tobacco Treatment Research and Training (CTTRT)-Lori Pbert, PhD; Judith K. Ockene, PhD

The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (CFOM)-Saki Santorelli, EdD

The Center for Applied Nutrition (CAN) - Barbara Olendzki, RD, MPH

The Health Statistics and Geography Center -Wenjun Li, PhD

The Research Center for Behavior and Community Health Solutions - Milagros Rosal, PhD

UMass Center for mHealth - Sherry Pagoto, PhD

Research

The Division conducts evidence-based research with a focus on obesity prevention and reduction, tobacco treatment and policy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, neighborhood environment and public policy impact on smoking and obesity, the elimination of disparities in health, and women’s health. Obesity and Tobacco increase the risk of cancer; and further research in lifestyle behaviors and mindfulness-based stress reduction can impact the incidence and prevalence of cancer. To collaborate with faculty in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, email Judith.Ockene@umassmed.edu or go to http://www.umassmed.edu/behavmed.

Specific Disease site based Research:

Breast Cancer

Faculty in Preventive and Behavioral Medicine have conducted research studies on breast cancer, breast cancer and weight loss, cancer survivorship. The Division and UMass Cancer Center collaborate with the University of Vermont and Dartmouth on the implementation of the Internet-Based Weight Loss and Exercise Intervention for Breast Cancer Survivors (I-WEB Study). The goal of this study is to test the effectiveness of a behavioral weight loss and exercise program delivered via the internet at three cancer centers in New England. The goal is to identify an effective weight loss and exercise intervention for breast cancer survivor that can be easily accessed. This study is still recruiting patients. Completed studies regarding breast cancer include the Women’s Health Initiative Cancer Survivor Cohort and the Breast Cancer Prevention through Nutrition Study. For more information, contact Judith.Ockene@umassmed.edu and Stephenie.Lemon@umassmed.edu.

Prostate Cancer

The US Army provided funding to the Division for A Holistic Quality of Life Intervention for Men with Secondary Prostate Cancer (J. Carmody-PI). The goal of this RCT was to test the hypothesis that an intervention that integrates dietary change and mindfulness-based stress reduction will significantly increase participants’ QOL through improvements in their social, emotional and physical well-being (including reduced PSA velocity). For more information, contact James.Carmody@umassmed.edu.

Skin Cancer

The Division was funded for two studies regarding skin cancer. The UMMS Prevention Research Center for Obesity and Related Conditions provided funding for the Examination of Environmental Characteristics that Enable and/or Promote Frequent Indoor Tanning among Young Adults to Inform Future Public Health Policy Efforts to Prevent Skin Cancer (Pagoto, PI). In addition, “An Appearance-Based Intervention to Reduce Teen Skin Cancer Risk, was funded by the CDC (Pagoto, PI). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the availability of unsupervised tanning in urban and rural areas of two different regions in the US (Northeast and Southeast), proximity to schools, the characteristics of users, and their patterns and reasons for use. For more information, contact Sherry.Pagoto@umassmed.edu, and Yunsheng.Ma@umassmed.edu.

The Meyers Primary Care Institute and the Cancer Research Network

The Meyers Primary Care Institute is a joint endeavor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Reliant Medical Group, and Fallon Community Health Plan. The Institute has been a long-time member of the Cancer Research Network (CRN), an NCI-funded initiative to support and facilitate cancer research based in non-profit integrated health care delivery settings. Our faculty members are actively involved in CRN-based research and training activities, and have led and collaborated on numerous cancer-related research studies. Examples include Dr. Mazor’s work developing new measures of health literacy in the context of cancer prevention and screening, Dr. Field’s studies of breast cancer treatment and survivorship in older women, and Dr. Epstein’s work on prostate cancer.

The CRN welcomes collaborations that result in research projects that improve knowledge about cancer etiology, prevention, early detection, treatment and prognosis, and that decrease the burden of cancer across the cancer care spectrum. The mission of the CRN is to support and facilitate cancer research in the participating non-profit integrated health care delivery settings. The nine participating research centers and their affiliated health care organizations provide a defined population of approximately nine million enrollees providing unique advantages for conducting population sciences research.

The CRN has identified four key research areas in which the CRN setting provides distinct advantages for conducting research. These research areas cover the spectrum of cancer research, but highlight the potential to take advantage of the unique strengths of access to detailed medical records and conducting research in integrated health care settings. The CRN has created Scientific Working Groups (SWGs) in these four areas, which are:

  • Prevention & Screening
  • Epidemiology of Prognosis & Outcomes
  • Health Care Quality & Cost
  • Communications & Dissemination

The SWGs conduct outreach activities, lead discussions to promote research ideas, shepherd research projects from idea to application, and generally provide support to a community of scientists with shared research interests. Researchers with interests in these areas are welcome to contact SWG leaders to get involved.