Reducing colorectal cancer rates in Alaska

Published on March 29, 2018

Reducing colorectal cancer rates in Alaska

Claudia Christensen, ANP, is a nurse practitioner and one of the first non-physician providers in the U.S. to perform screening colonoscopies. As part of a program developed by the Alaska Native Tribal Health System, she has helped increase early detection and screening for colorectal cancer in high-risk Alaska Natives. She is a past recipient of a Dialogue for Action® Cancer Prevention Laurels Award for Innovative Programs in cancer prevention. We spoke to Ms. Christensen about her work to improve colorectal cancer screening rates and the value of this conference for nurse practitioners and other primary care providers.

Tell us about your work to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in Alaska.

Prior to the early 1990s, screening rates for Alaska Native people—who have some of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the developed world—were very low. Most colorectal cancers in this population were diagnosed at late stages. We worked to develop a screening program and encouraged primary care providers to refer their patients to us. As a nurse practitioner, I was trained to perform sigmoidoscopy, and then colonoscopy, which greatly improved availability and access to screening. This helped us make big improvements in prevention and early diagnosis.

What are the best ways to communicate the importance of colorectal cancer screening with this population?

Storytelling is a rich tradition in Native American culture. The most effective way that we were able to communicate the screening message was by creating videos featuring Alaska Native families encouraging elders to get screened. Sharing stories of family members who may have been affected by colorectal cancer was an effective way to normalize the discussion of a topic that can be difficult to talk about.

Why is the Dialogue for Action® an important conference for nurse practitioners to attend?

Today, many Americans rely on nurse practitioners for their primary health care, including prevention and screening for cancers. In the rapidly changing world of health care, having the latest information on research, legislation and advancements in prevention and early detection are critical pieces to providing quality care. Dialogue for Action® is an excellent venue for keeping up-to-date on the latest information.

You’ve attended several Dialogue conferences in the past. Do you have any highlights from your experiences you’d like to share?

Living in a place as remote as Alaska, you can begin to feel that you are a long way from the rest of the world. Dialogue was really what made me feel like I was connected to and part of a greater cause. Sharing ideas with others in the country who were dealing with the same issues of access, limited resources and cultural diversity that we were was tremendously helpful.

Register today and meet other nurse practitioners and nurses who, like Claudia, are passionate about cancer screening and prevention.


Dialogue for Action® on Cancer Screening and Prevention
April 11-13, 2018
Hilton McLean Tysons Corner
McLean, VA

No Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

Sign up to get the latest about cancer prevention and early detection directly in your inbox.