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Volunteer turns the blues into pink passion

When Margie Elkins of Niantic, CT, remembered the birthday of a dear friend she had watched pass away from pancreatic cancer, she felt a need to do something to give back to others facing the disease. She reached out to a friend who put her in contact with our Volunteer Care Team.

"I'm typically not a joiner, but I had attended a survivor luncheon right after my diagnosis and surgery," explained Margie, a two-year survivor of breast cancer. "During my recovery, I had an overwhelming feeling of isolation and loneliness. I didn't want others to feel the same."

Once Margie was connected to the Volunteer Learning Center, she was off and running taking the necessary training sessions to be an active volunteer. "I trained as a Reach To Recovery visitor and as a Road To Recovery driver," she said. "I haven't driven yet for the Road program, but I have spoken about the need for new drivers to groups I meet with, and successfully recruited two new drivers in our area."  

In addition to program-specific training, Margie has taken advantage of training on the Volunteer Learning Center to enhance her leadership skills, volunteer-staff partnership, and public speaking abilities. "I hope to be an example that something positive can come from something negative," she says. "I want to be a voice for those that can't find theirs."   

"I encourage all potential volunteers to visit the Volunteer Learning Center and take a look at the training sessions that spark their interest," said Margie. "The session on Creating a Mission Statement was my favorite so far. The passion from the volunteer facilitators was moving."

Margie also got involved in her local Making Strides Against Cancer and met her staff partner Cate Reid, community development manager. She is currently working on a fundraiser that marries her interest in blues music with her passion for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. The event is called ACS Blues meets Pink and will be held at Stonington Vineyards to raise money for her local Strides event.

The American Cancer Society's Volunteer Learning Center provides a wide variety of online training opportunities for volunteers. To view current curriculum, visit the Volunteer Learning Center at

  • New report shows state lawmakers can do more to prevent and reduce cancer

    State lawmakers across the country are missing important opportunities to pass and implement proven legislative solutions to prevent and fight cancer, according to a report released August 9 by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). For interactive national and state-by-state details, as well as a full copy of the report, visit

    How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality grades states on the strength of evidence-based policies that help to prevent cancer, which kills roughly 1,670 people a day nationwide, forces patients to pay nearly $4 billion in out-of-pocket expenses every year, and in 2015 cost the country more than $80 billion in direct medical expenditures. 

    This annual snapshot of key state policies shows that many states are falling behind in their efforts to prevent cancer and promote access to health coverage. The report grades states in nine specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer: increased access to health care coverage through Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs, passage of quality of life (palliative care) policies, implementation of balanced pain control policies, smoke-free laws, cigarette tax levels, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, coverage of tobacco cessation treatment through Medicaid programs, and prohibiting minors from using indoor tanning devices.

    "Right now, families across America are in the fight of their lives against cancer and they need all the help they can get," said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. "State lawmakers have policies at their fingertips that are proven to help prevent and treat cancer—policies that could mean the difference between life and death for people in their states. By passing the cancer-fighting measures laid out in this report, lawmakers will not only be saving lives today and for years to come, they'll be reducing long-term health care costs that can be reinvested back into state economies."

    A color-coded system is used to identify how well a state is doing. Green represents the benchmark position, showing that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark; and red shows where a state is falling short. 

    Overall, the report found:

    • Eighteen states reach benchmarks in only two or fewer of the nine legislative priority areas
    • Thirty states and the District of Columbia measure up in just three to five of the nine areas
    • Only two states – California and Massachusetts – meet benchmarks in six or more of the nine categories
    • No state meets benchmarks in eight or nine policy areas

    Special Section: Pain policy

    Pain policy is the focus of a new special section in this year's report, which found that between 2015 and 2018 the number of state legislative proposals related to pain management and opioid issues rose from fewer than 80 proposals to more than 470—a six-fold increase. Although these policies are intended to curb the ongoing opioid abuse problem, the unintended results are making it much harder for cancer patients and survivors to access their prescribed pain treatment. The report found only four states have passed balanced pain policies that help combat opioid abuse and misuse while preserving legitimate access to pain management for cancer patients and survivors.

    "Opioid abuse is a critical public health crisis that must be addressed," Hansen said. "But state lawmakers shouldn't create barriers that prevent cancer patients and survivors from accessing their prescribed pain treatments. Many cancer patients and survivors need pain treatment to live and complete even the most basic day-to-day tasks. State lawmakers should pass balanced pain policies that curb abuse while preserving access to pain medication for the cancer patients and survivors who need it."

    Access to Health Care: Medicaid

    Access to quality health coverage has been directly linked to cancer outcomes, yet 17 states still have not increased access to their Medicaid programs to help provide more low-income Americans with comprehensive, affordable health coverage. Research shows individuals without health care coverage are more likely than those with coverage to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, when it is more costly and difficult to treat, and when individuals are less likely to survive. Medicaid provides a critical safety-net for more than 2.3 million Americans with a history of cancer, including one-third of all childhood cancer patients at the point of diagnosis.


    Despite tobacco being the number one preventable cause of death nationwide, states continue to fall short when it comes to passing laws to prevent tobacco addiction and death. Only 25 states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws requiring 100 percent smoke-free workplaces including restaurants and bars and only three states are spending more than 50 percent of the CDC recommended funding level for their tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Furthermore, just 10 states offer the full spectrum of cessation services, including individual, group, and telephone counseling and all seven Food and Drug Administration-approved tobacco cessation medications, in their Medicaid programs.

    Quality of Life

    In 2018, three states passed legislation to increase access to and awareness of palliative care, specialized medical care that focuses on care coordination and relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Palliative care alongside curative treatments can improve patient outcomes, reduce hospital readmittance and increase patient and family satisfaction. It is also shown to reduce medical costs. In total, 23 states have passed palliative care legislation.

    Indoor Tanning

    Additionally, prohibiting minors under 18 from using indoor tanning devices, which the World Health Organization classifies as carcinogenic, is a cancer prevention policy that is increasing in popularity nationwide. Currently, 17 states and Washington, D.C., have laws in place that protect young people from the risks associated with these devices (up from 15 states and the District in 2016).

    The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 1.7 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 600,000 will die from the disease this year.

  • CytoSource recognized for two-part series on empathy

    The CytoSource news section in our monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal Cancer Cytopathology has been recognized with the prestigious Apex Grand Award for writing, specifically for the two-part series on empathy that ran in August and September 2017. 

    This series addresses the role that empathy plays—and should play—in the care of patients with cancer. It also explores techniques for providing empathetic care  The articles are titled "The Case for Empathy" and "The Art of Caring." 

    The annual APEX Awards are given by Communication Concepts to recognize excellence in writing, digital content, graphic design, social media, public relations, and marketing. This is CytoSource's fourth APEX Award and second Apex Grand Award. We won the APEX Grand Award in 2016 for our two-part series on physician-assisted suicide.

    CytoSource is a news section published in every issue of Cancer Cytopathology that is written by medical journalist Bryn Nelson, PhD, and offers readers timely information on events, issues, and personalities of interest to the subspecialty. Bryn writes the pieces, though they are brainstormed and edited by David B. Kaminsky, MD, Dawn Antoline (an editor at our publisher, Wiley), and ACS staffer Daniel Nadolny, managing editor of Cancer Cytopathology.

    Cancer Cytopathology is one of three official journals of the American Cancer Society and is published by Wiley. It was published as a section of Cancer from 1997 until 2008, when it was split into a separate journal. Our third journal is CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

    Upcoming 2018 installments of CytoSource will look at Crossover Drugs: Repurposing Old Agents as New Cancer Therapies,Birth Control Pills and Cancer Risk, and a two-part look atSurviving Childhood Cancer.


  • Massachusetts becomes the 6th state to raise tobacco age to 21

    On July 27, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that on Dec. 31 will raise the legal age to buy tobacco products statewide from 18 to 21. The bill also broadens existing prohibitions on public smoking to include e-cigarettes, and prohibits the use of tobacco products on the grounds of any public or private primary, secondary, or vocational school. Additionally, the new law will prohibit the sale of tobacco products by any pharmacy, hospital, or other entity that offers health care services or that employs any licensed health care providers.

    “Raising the age to buy tobacco products in the Commonwealth is an important step to prevent addiction for young people and encourage healthy choices,” said Baker. 

    While the bill prohibits the sale of tobacco to people under 21, it would not make it illegal for minors to use tobacco, nor would it be a crime for a parent or other adult to give a cigarette or tobacco product to a minor. Also, the new age would be phased in over three years, so that anyone already old enough to buy tobacco could continue to do so.

    Marc Hymovitz, Massachusetts director of government relations for ACS CAN, said lawmakers "have taken a huge step towards combating the tobacco industry's influence on Massachusetts' youth and protecting future generations of our children from becoming addicted to this deadly product."

    Tobacco 21 law still awaiting governor's signature in Illinois

    In June, the Illinois legislature sent a Tobacco 21 bill to Gov. Bruce Rauner, but he has yet to sign it. Chicago and about two dozen other Illinois cities have already made this move to protect the health of children.

    Tobacco 21 laws have been enacted by California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Washington D.C. and at least 340 cities and counties, including New York City, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and both Kansas Cities. In Massachusetts, more than 170 municipalities had raised the tobacco age above 18.

  • ACS CAN-backed palliative care bill heads to the Senate after unanimous House approval

    On July 23, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA). The bipartisan bill would increase federal research funding for palliative care, including symptom and pain management, and would establish palliative care education and training programs for doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. It would also create a national public education and awareness campaign to educate patients and providers about the availability and benefits of palliative care. The bill's passage in the House of Representatives clears the way for Senate consideration.

    A statement from Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), follows:

    "Cancer patients, survivors, and others living with serious illnesses and chronic pain have reason to celebrate today as a result of the House of Representatives' approval of PCHETA on a bipartisan basis. The PCHETA legislation, which ACS CAN and the Patient Quality of Life Coalition (PQLC) have long advocated for, will improve the coordination of care and quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and others living with serious illnesses. There is a critical need to expand patient awareness of, and access to, palliative care services and appropriate pain management. We believe the PCHETA legislation will greatly aid in this effort through updating pain and symptom management training for health care providers and also bolstering federal pain research efforts at the National Institutes of Health.

    "We commend Congressmen Elliot Engel (D-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY) and Buddy Carter (R-GA) for championing the PCHETA legislation and thank House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) for their leadership. We now urge the Senate to quickly follow suit and pass this legislation in a bipartisan fashion."

  • NOVA video on grilling features tips from our nutritionist Colleen Doyle

    The PBS show NOVA has created a video with chef Scott Jones about the pitfalls of grilling food. He clearly likes his grilled meat - but he points out that when food is cooked at high temperatures carcinogenic compounds are formed. Bummer!

    If you've worked at ACS for any length of time, you probably already knew that. But, there are things you can do to reduce those compounds (and cancer risk), and that's where Colleen Doyle, our managing director, nutrition and physical activity, comes in. She offers these tips:

    • Precook your meat in the kitchen to cut down on the time it is on the hot grill 
    • Scrape charred bits off your grill before cooking (and scrape them off your meat before eating)
    • Trim the fat off the meat which is what drips on the coals and creates the unwanted smoke and flame.

    Learn more by watching the video now!

  • NOVA video on grilling features tips from our nutritionist Colleen Doyle

    ​The PBS show NOVA has created a video with chef Scott Jones about the pitfalls of grilling food. He clearly likes his grilled meat - but he points out that when food is cooked at high temperatures carcinogenic compounds are formed. Bummer!

    If you've worked at ACS for any length of time, you probably already knew that. But, there are things you can do to reduce those compounds (and cancer risk), and that's where Colleen Doyle, our managing director, nutrition and physical activity, comes in. She offers these tips:

    • Precook your meat in the kitchen to cut down on the time it is on the hot grill 
    • Scrape charred bits off your grill before cooking (and scrape them off your meat before eating)
    • Trim the fat off the meat which is what drips on the coals and creates the unwanted smoke and flame.

    Learn more by watching the video now!

  • ACS awards $3.2 million in new grants to help reduce breast cancer disparities

    The American Cancer Society has awarded $3.2 million in grant funding to 32 health systems across the U.S. to address disparities in breast cancer mortality that exist among women of color.  Funding for these grants is made possible through ACS's partnership with the National Football League (NFL) and the League's Crucial Catch campaign. Grant-funded health systems will address the full continuum of cancer care, including breast cancer screening, follow-up of abnormal mammograms, and timely access to specialty care if needed. 

    The grants are the latest in ACS's Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program, which provides funding opportunities as part of our commitment to reduce disparities in cancer mortality. Each clinic will receive $100,000 over two years. The grants target underserved populations, with a particular focus on African American communities.

    "Too many women in underserved communities lack access to high-quality breast cancer screening and timely follow-up care," says Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer. "Cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, but it doesn't affect everyone equally. These grants will get us one step closer to reducing disparities and promoting health equity in various communities across the U.S." 

    Breast cancer mortality has steadily declined over the last four decades, largely due to improvements in early detection and treatment. However, not all women have benefited equally from this progress. A faster drop among white women has widened the mortality gap between white and black women. Despite similar rates of disease and screening rates, breast cancer death rates in 2015 were 39 percent higher for black women than white women in the nation, and up to 60 percent higher in some states. Differences in stage of cancer diagnosis, tumor characteristics, obesity, and other comorbidities are all contributing factors to this disparity.

    Access to timely follow-up and high-quality treatment are key drivers of these disparities, especially in underserved communities, and that's why the health system grantees will address the full continuum of cancer care. 

    "We're encouraged by the impact of our partnership with the American Cancer Society to drive cancer prevention and early detection and pleased to provide these grants that will further the live-saving mission of the Crucial Catch campaign," said Anna Isaacson, NFL senior vice president of social responsibility. "We're committed to the fight against cancer and supporting those affected within the NFL family and well beyond."

    Since 2009, the NFL's Crucial Catch has raised more than $18 million in support of ACS. Funding raised since 2012 has supported ACS's CHANGE program and has been invested in underserved communities to increase cancer education and awareness and promote life-saving screening tests. To date, health system grantees have reached more than 632,000 individuals with education, patient reminders and navigation to screening, and contributed to 138,000 breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings. 

  • Southeast Region hosts its first statewide gathering of Mission: HPV Cancer Free stakeholders

    On June 14, more than 130 participants representing Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), cancer centers and affiliated primary care networks, health plans, statewide professional organizations, and other stakeholders, attended a day-long HPV meeting in Tampa, Fla.

    The event had two main goals:

    1. Introduce the Mission: HPV Cancer Free Campaign to key health systems leaders from across Florida
    2. Prepare health systems' leaders to implement evidence-based interventions, system change, and quality improvement work leading to increased HPV vaccination completion

    The panel of expert speakers addressed the following topics:

    • Mission: HPV Cancer Free Campaign
    • Florida Department of Health Commits to Mission: HPV Cancer Free
    • Why HPV Vaccination Matters: Latest HPV Science
    • HPV Vaccination in Florida: Current Trends, Updates, and Research
    • Reducing Gender Disparities in HPV Vaccination
    • HPV Vaccination: Implementation Science and its Application to Clinical Practice
    • Interventions at Work: Core Strategies and Tools
    • HPV Vaccination Myth Busting

    In addition to hearing lectures by the presenters and having a chance to ask questions, participants committed to a call to action by signing a commitment poster that read: "We stand with the American Cancer Society to create a world that is HPV cancer free."  

    Next steps include collaborating with key stakeholders such as FQHCs, hospital-owned primary care networks, and health plans to implement the evidence-based strategies and tools; identifying partners who will financially support the work; and beginning a communication campaign with ACS stakeholders to spread campaign goals to the community. 

    The Summit was supported, in part, by a generous sponsorship by the Florida Department of Health.

    TOP PHOTO: From left, Alix Casler, MD; Anna R. Giuliano, PhD; Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer; Debbie Saslow, PhD, senior director, HPV Related and Women's Cancers, Prevention and Early Detection; Celeste Philip, MD; Dr. Susan T. Vadaparampil, PhD, MPH; Carol Lindhorst, senior director, Primary Care System; and Megan Wessel, VP, regional cancer control.

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