Rectal cancer program earns national accreditation for quality of care

April 05, 2021
Virgilio George, M.D., talks with a patient
Dr. Virgilio George, chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery at MUSC, said the accreditation confirms Hollings' commitment to providing the best possible care for rectal cancer patients. Photo by Sarah Pack

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center has earned a three-year accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC), recognizing the center’s commitment to providing the best possible care for patients with the disease. The accreditation is a quality improvement program of the American College of Surgeons.

Hollings is one of only 22 centers in the country to earn the accreditation and is the first in South Carolina, further highlighting the center as a national leader in treating cancers of the digestive system. The recognition was given based on Hollings’ ability to demonstrate compliance with rigorous NAPRC standards surrounding program management, clinical services and quality improvement for patients.

Its goal is to ensure that rectal cancer patients receive appropriate care that utilizes a multidisciplinary approach. Centers are required to establish a rectal cancer team that includes clinical representatives from surgery, pathology, radiology, radiation oncology and medical oncology to provide a well-rounded approach to care.

According to Virgilio George, M.D., chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, meeting the high standards needed to earn the recognition was a team effort.

“Accreditation is granted only to those programs that are committed to providing the best possible care to patients with rectal cancer through a multidisciplinary approach and adherence to evidence-based standards.”
— Dr. Virgilio George

“The process to be accredited required tremendous commitment and collaboration by our entire team to implement standards of care that would meet the requirements set forth by the NAPRC. Accreditation is granted only to those programs that are committed to providing the best possible care to patients with rectal cancer through a multidisciplinary approach and adherence to evidence-based standards,” said George.

“This accreditation means that we provide benefits to our patients through decreased local recurrence and increased survival. Our multidisciplinary approach allows us to develop in one place a treatment plan that includes medical oncology, radiation and surgery.”

Highlights of Hollings’ rectal cancer program include:

  • Evidence-based teaching prior to surgery to improve post-operative outcomes.
  • Patient education regarding wound care before and after surgery.
  • Built-in smoking cessation and genetic counseling services for patients who qualify.
  • Access to a program coordinator who can assist with all aspects of care and patient support.

Additionally, a multidisciplinary team of physicians meets weekly through the center’s dedicated tumor board to review each patient’s chart and develop the best treatment pathway to ensure that patients are achieving optimal outcomes.

“This team model is based on standards of care and medical practice and entails collaboration on decisions regarding therapy and all aspects of surgical treatment. When these multidisciplinary teams are put into place, we see improved outcomes for patients, including a decrease in recurrence rates and an increase in overall survival rates,” said George. “Following the NAPRC standards helps to decrease the overall colostomy rate and increase quality of life, as reported by recovering patients.”

Although the rate of rectal cancer diagnoses has dropped overall since the mid-1980s, rates of the disease are currently rising among younger populations. One in every three new rectal cancers is diagnosed in patients younger than 55, and people who were born after 1990 have a two-fold increased chance of getting rectal cancer compared to people born in 1950.

Because of this trend, the American Cancer Society recently changed its recommendation for average-risk patients to begin screening at age 45 instead of 50. Early detection has been shown to improve survival rates significantly, making it more important than ever that patients don’t delay in getting their first screening.

Learn more about the available screening options for colorectal cancer and ways to lower your cancer risk by visiting the Hollings website.

About the Author

Kelsey Hudnall
MUSC Hollings Cancer Center

Keywords: Cancer