This fall, community health remains top of mind for so many.
Flu season coupled with lingering COVID-19 variants force us to adopt new routines.
As the founder of Susan G. Komen, it has been my life’s mission to strengthen women’s health and increase access to routine screening to bring an end to cancer.
While our inspiration and determination are renewed every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also worth considering how COVID-19 continues to force many Americans to delay their annual cancer screenings.
In 2020, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraged Americans to temporarily delay routine cancer screenings in order to protect themselves and their providers from the virus and preserve the supply of personal protective equipment.
Many older adults, those especially susceptible to serious effects of the virus, continued to follow orders to stay home even into this year.
As a result, medical billing records show that appointments for mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap smears and other cancer screenings have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
According to one 2022 study, it is estimated that 9.4 million cancer screenings were missed from January through July 2020 versus the same period in 2019 in the United States.
These statistics are alarming and portend rather dangerous trend lines heading into the heart of flu season when reluctance for medical care will only increase.
Indeed, cities, local municipalities and counties that have confronted this problem by increasing access to mammography facilities have made significant progress in narrowing the breast cancer mortality gap between Black and white women.
This community-centered approach that seizes upon the effectiveness of patient navigation across the cancer care continuum — from screen through treatment and recovery — is being implemented by several groundbreaking organizations throughout the country, including The Promise Fund of Florida.
In February, President Joe Biden reignited the Cancer Moonshot with renewed White House leadership and new ambitious goals: to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years and improve the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer — and, by doing this and more, to end cancer as we know it.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress are on board with the proposals.
This is not a partisan issue.
My hope is that in the months ahead, our leaders in Washington, D.C. will continue to facilitate support for advanced, innovative and community-centric screening programs that are accessible to underserved populations.
This will help get screening numbers back to where they were prior to the pandemic.
In the meantime, remember to continue to do your part by listening to your doctor and adhering to regular screening. It just might save your life.
Nancy Brinker, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, founded The Promise Fund of Florida and Susan G. Komen Foundation. She is also a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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