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Dr. Wender looks back on Countdown to 2018

The blog on the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable site now includes a new entry by Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer, and Anjelica Davis, president of Fight Colorectal Cancer, recapping the March 1 Countdown to 2018 live broadcast from the Hard Rock Café in New York City.

"We’re seeing incredible gains in the screening rate, including nearly 4 million additional adults age 50 and older screened between 2013 and 2015 alone – which will mean 39,000 lives saved if we can keep the rate up," they wrote.​

"A spectacular byproduct of setting an audacious goal like 80% by 2018 is collaboration. Bold goals tend to spark ideas, strengthen team efforts, and pool resources, so that together we can achieve great things. Across the country, we have seen 80% by 2018 partners work together and collaborate in their own communities to turn bridges and buildings blue, to screen more patients in practice, and to pitch in and figure out how we prevent our friends, families and neighbors from getting this disease."

The event showcased an array of advocates for screening, including journalist Katie Couric, whose first husband died of colon cancer at age 42; actor Luke Perry, whose best friend’s wife was diagnosed with the disease; Broadway actress Karen Walsh, a survivor; professional race car driver Scott Lagasse Jr., and more. 

Read the full entry here. It includes statistics on viewers and social media engagements.

And, if you missed the broadcast or want to watch it again, here's the link to the Countdown to 2018 replay.​

  • Help fight cervical cancer by completing a short survey

    ​In order to help the American Cancer Society further a valuable partnership with Rotary International, we've created a short survey to help us better understand the current and past relationships between American Cancer Society staff/volunteers and Rotary clubs on the local level.  

    We are asking all staff and leadership volunteers who are members of Rotary (Rotary, Interact, or Rotaract), or who have worked in partnership with Rotary in an ACS staff or volunteer capacity, to complete the survey by April 26.

    The information collected through this survey will help the American Cancer Society strengthen our ties with Rotary International and foster future collaborations around eliminating cervical cancer on a global scale.

    Eradicating cervical cancer is an extremely high priority for the Society, and collaborating with nationally well-known and well-respected organizations like Rotary International are imperative to helping us raise awareness and support for this important work.

    We appreciate your support in this effort!

  • Visit to Africa inspires cancer survivor to advocate for hostel

    NOTE: Ian Lock of Wisconsin is one of a group of 39 cancer survivors, doctors, caregivers, and advocates who traveled to Africa in January as part of a life-changing mission trip sponsored by Society partner Above+Beyond Cancer​. The group started their trip visiting the only public hospital in Kenya. Their goal, in support of our global strategy, is to provide counsel and help raise funds for a hostel (similar to a Hope Lodge) in Kenya. In this first-hand account, Ian, a survivor of osteosarcoma, shares how the trip impacted his perspective.​

    A few things should be known. I am a white, middle-class male from a loving nuclear family and a supportive community. These were all things that affected my cancer journey, and therefore affect my perspective as I tell you about the absolute need for a Hope Lodge in an entirely different country.

    Cancer in Kenya has nearly a 70 percent mortality rate, with 27,000 of the 39,000 cases diagnosed every year resulting in death. Fifteen percent of all of the diagnosed cancers are children, as opposed to less than one percent in the U.S., and the mortality rate is nearly 90 percent. Mortality in children alone is nearly 60 percent higher than in developed countries. Knowing this didn't prepare me for being in the hospital where so many of these people are treated.

    While being escorted through the building, one thought pervaded my consciousness: "I don't belong here." That was for two main reasons. First, the hospital was empty. The only public hospital in the country, that usually serves more than 2,000 patients a day, was a ghost town. The doctors had been on strike for nearly a month. The adult oncology floor, where more than 200 patients are usually treated each day, was barren. 

    The second unsettling fact was, and still is, life in the hospital. While I was in treatment, I received one-on-one care by a dedicated staff in a private room in a hospital 60 miles from home that gave some of the best care in the U.S. I don't point this out to be crass, but as a point of comparison. While walking through the hospital, the adult in-patient rooms had eight beds each, and the pediatric care unit had more than twice as many in a single room. Patients were separated by, at most, a curtain.

    When we entered the pediatric care unit there were several children still there, but one thing was remarkably absent -- parents. I know it was a privilege that may have been almost unique to my situation, but I was never alone during treatment. My mom stayed every night in the hospital and was there every morning when I woke up. On the rare occasions that was not possible, my dad or grandparents were there. These children had been dropped off to receive treatment, alone in a hospital that I could not imagine receiving my own treatment in.

    I realized how often I take for granted the privileges that were afforded me. The access to care, the health insurance, the support of a family and a community.

    At the end of our tour we returned to the comforts of our hotel, and I couldn't shake a feeling of guilt. Why was I here? What was the purpose of my visit to the hospital? I walked around that hospital taking pictures of sub-​par treatment situations. I talked to a few patients, saw the kinds of lives that they lived in the hospital. But, what good did I do? Was I just a self-important tourist there to purely witness the situations and leave thankful and grateful for my own situation? Over the next three days we spent at the hospital, I grappled with this question, and on our last night in Kenya I realized that I it was necessary for me to be more, to do more.​

    Kenyatta National Hospital serves the entirety of the Kenyan population, around 44 million people, as the only public hospital in the country. While there are private hospitals, for the individuals who travel hundreds of kilometers to receive treatment, the cost of public medical services and travel is overwhelming already. Patients stay with relatives if they can, sleep in crowded rooms in the slums, sleep in the unoccupied beds of the in-patient ward, or sleep in the courtyards of the hospital between treatments. Many patients don't receive the full regimen of treatment because they leave the hospital due to the financial burden of lodging. The proposed Hope hostel provides an opportunity to support patients from around the country, and to remove barriers to care for years to come.

    This hostel represents a significant advancement in the ability of patients from throughout Kenya to access the relatively affordable and lifesaving services of Kenyatta National Hospital. Until its completion, I will be an advocate, fundraiser, or spokesperson. I am not an expert on cancer in Kenya, I am not a trained medical professional, and I admittedly don't know enough about the treatment of underprivileged groups even in the U.S., but I will continue to advocate and learn more about the impact that I can make both here and abroad.​​

  • Share your frequent flier miles to benefit people with cancer

    ​Do you collect airline miles from Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, or Frontier Airlines? Do you have miles that are due to expire soon or may go to waste?

    Consider donating them to the American Cancer Society. We have run out of donated miles for the Air Miles Program, which helps people with cancer access the care they need but otherwise might not get get.

    "We don't often think of the Air Miles program when we consider our transportation initiatives, but it's a vital part of connecting patients to treatment. Contributing air miles is another way American Cancer Society staff and volunteers can help to save lives," said Jennifer Agee, senior program manager, Programs and Services.

    Ways to give

    Delta Airlines SkyWish Program: Visit their website to donate your miles or send an email to delta.bids@delta.com​ and include your name, SkyMiles number, donation amount, and telephone number. Please be sure to identify the American Cancer Society as your Delta SkyWish charity recipient organization.

    United Airlines Mileage Plus Charity Miles® Program: Visit their website to donate your United Mileage Plus miles, or call the Mileage Plus customer service number at 1-800-421-4655 and identify the American Cancer Society as the charity recipient. When you call, please have available your Mileage Plus number, united.com password, email address, and the number of miles to be donated.

    Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns® Mileage Program: Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns members may donate their miles in 1,000 mile increments. Please call the EarlyReturns desk at 1-866-263-2759 to make your contribution.

    Thank you! 

  • Volunteer paves way for a new generation of volunteers at ACS

    Volunteerism has changed over the past decade. Volunteers are wanting to engage with us in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to them by marrying their professional skills with their volunteer role.

    "Skills-based volunteering is becoming a mainstay for volunteer organizations," said Melissa Park, volunteer. "Millennials and centennials want to volunteer in roles that will help them grow professionally. They want to develop and build their portfolio with their volunteer work."

    Melissa has served in a variety of volunteer roles and continues to bring innovation to the American Cancer Society. She is the enterprise-wide co-lead for the National Volunteer Training Team, and a member of the skills-based Volunteer Advisory Team.

    She volunteered to participate in a pilot to engage skills-based volunteers through an online service called Catchafire. "The system is just so easy to use and is saving us valuable time and money," Melissa said.

    She began by posting two projects in one day. She had the maximum of three interested applications for both projects within 24 hours. She was able to interview the interested applicants and select the one with whom she wanted to work to complete the project. 

    "I submitted a proposal to obtain social media messaging and strategies for Relay For Life events that would tie our mission to our fundraising efforts," Melissa explained. She selected two high school students who were attracted to Catchafire through Linked In. "I was amazed by their professionalism and their creativity," Melissa said. "They are very passionate about social media, believe in our mission, and want to help us now, and hopefully in the future."

    Melissa has plans to submit even more project ideas to Catchafire for volunteer matching. Catchafire is open right now during this pilot phase to Global Headquarters staff and select volunteers like Melissa. "If you have ideas that are not high on your priority list but can be managed by a volunteer partner, then this will work for you," she said. "Hopefully you will end up with something you can use. If not, what have you lost?"

    Melissa believes skills-based volunteerism is the future for the new ACS and she looks forward to a day when all staff will have the ability to utilize a program like Catchafire to bring new volunteers to the organization. "Think of it as hiring a consultant," she said. "You get the expertise of a consultant in a certain area but don't have to pay an invoice in the end." 

    To date, our pilot with Catchafire has saved the Society 311 staff hours and more than $51,000. 

  • National Minority Health Month - Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation

    The American Cancer Society and ACS CAN believe everyone deserves equal access to cancer education, screening exams, treatment, and follow-up care. Every day of the year – but especially during the month of April – we work to raise awareness about cancer among minorities in recognition of National Minority Health Month and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week (April 9 – 15). 

    Racial and ethnic minorities bear a greater cancer burden, largely due to factors like poverty and lack of access to prevention, early detection, and high-quality treatment services. ​

    Additional barriers not related to poverty and lack of access include:

    • The perception that all screening tests are invasive and unpleasant
    • Low levels of healthy behavior
    • No recommendation from their doctor
    • No personal connection to cancer
    • For LGBTQIA+ persons, specific challenges related to being out and lack of data

    Because of these barriers, it's perhaps more important for us to motivate these individuals to participate in prevention and early detection activities through recommended cancer screenings and encourage them to maintain healthy lifestyle choices. By doing so, more lives can be saved.

    The theme for National Minority Health Month this year is "Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation." We will focus on raising awareness about the need for health equity, especially around colorectal cancer screening.

    Our research shows:

    • Approximately 17,240 African-American men and women were estimated to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer during the year 2016, with an estimated 7,030 deaths in that same year. ​
    • Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death among Hispanics in the U.S. when men and women are combined. Hispanics are also one of the populations least likely to be screened for colorectal cancer, even though the disease is often preventable or detected early through screening. 
    • Asian Americans have among the lowest rates of colorectal cancer screening in the United States, with only 52% up to date with their screening (compared to 66% among non-Hispanic whites).

    New funding opportunity available to improve colorectal cancer screening rates among American Indian and Alaska Native communities

    As part of our efforts to increase colorectal cancer screening in minority populations, the Society has announced an exciting funding opportunity for eligible tribal health organizations and organizations serving the health needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities to support the implementation of colorectal cancer screening projects. Through the Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) Program, we will provide grants of up to $100,000 ($50,000 per year for two years) to five organizations to support the implementation of evidenced-based interventions aimed to improve colorectal cancer outcomes and decrease disparities.

    Since 2011, corporate funders have contributed $21.8 million to fund the CHANGE Program

    The primary goal of the CHANGE Program is to increase cancer screening rates within communities experiencing an unequal burden of cancer. We have awarded 524 grants to community-based partners to implement evidence-based interventions that provide culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education to empower and mobilize the community to access screening resources, and to ensure that access to cancer screening resources and follow-up care is available. Since 2011, these grant recipients have reached individuals with more than 2.3 million outreach and education interventions, and contributed to more than 781,000 breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening exams provided at low or no cost.

    RESOURCES

    National Minority Health Month and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week present opportunities for staff to partner and highlight cancer disparities in minority communities. Here are just a few of the resources available to help you:

  • Cancer doesn't sleep and neither does NCIC

    While most of us are fast asleep in the middle of the night, a dedicated group of Cancer Information Specialists works tirelessly to respond to constituents' cancer questions and connect them to resource to help with a variety of needs that arise when dealing with a diagnosis. 

    When constituents need answers, empathy, and a listening ear —even at 3 a.m. on a holiday — Cancer Information Specialists Saul Gonzalez, Emily Moore, Mary Ukaoma, Gregg Walker, and Performance Support Specialist Marwa Bishr will be there to assist.

    Here is a small sampling of calls the overnight specialists have received recently:

    • A woman diagnosed with breast cancer called after hearing about Look Good Feel Better, because she will soon begin treatment and wanted to be prepared for side-effects. The specialist registered the caller for a Look Good Feel Better session, discussed ways the caller could manage her diet and nutrition during treatment, and shared information on other side-effects she may experience. The caller also was referred to Reach To Recovery to receive support throughout her cancer journey.  

    • A father called NCIC in the middle of the night looking for emotional support and help telling his young children that their grandmother, his mother, had passed away from cancer. The specialist shared information about how to share the news and ways to help his children through the grieving and mourning process. The caller was also given resources to obtain support for himself and his family.

    • After learning her sister was diagnosed with stage IV lobular breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones, a woman called NCIC to discuss getting a second opinion for her loved one. The caller was emotional and understandably wanted to make sure her sister got the best care possible. The specialist walked the caller through finding out what might be covered by her sister's Medicaid, as well as how to find a breast cancer specialist and an accredited cancer treatment facility. They discussed treatment options for stage IV breast cancer, ACS wig banks, Reach To Recovery, ACS Air Miles, and other resources that may help the patient.  

    • A man was concerned about his wife's risk of ovarian cancer due to talcum powder use. The specialist shared information on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, as well as information about talcum powder's link to the cancer. The caller was worried, because his wife was experiencing symptoms but told the specialist their insurance had lapsed and finances were tight. The specialist referred the caller to NCIC's Health Insurance Assistance Service, which will help the caller look into options for obtaining coverage for care for his wife.

    NCIC's cancer information specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via 1-800-227-2345. Also, constituents can chat with a specialist Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET by clicking the Live Chat button found on cancer.org.​​

  • Health coalition forms National Lung Cancer Roundtable

    ​The American Cancer Society and a coalition of leading professional, government, and non-governmental organizations are coming together to form the National Lung Cancer Roundtable to accelerate the nation's efforts to reduce mortality from lung cancer.

    ​The group will focus on ensuring those at high-risk for lung cancer have access to high-quality screening, while also working to ensure patients receive timely, patient-centered, state-of-the-art care for all stages of the disease.

    AstraZeneca is funding the first three years of the project at $1.5 million.​

    Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the U.S. The disease killed about 158,000 people in 2016, and accounts for about one in four deaths from all cancers annually.

    Lung cancer screening only recently started to become part of mainstream preventive care for current and former smokers. The strategies to reduce lung cancer deaths have traditionally focused solely on reducing tobacco use. Now, with clear evidence from the National Lung Screening Trial that screening with low-dose CT reduces lung cancer deaths, the combination of advances in screening technologies and treatment methods offers the ability to substantially reduce lung cancer death rates. Medicare and most private insurers cover screening.

    "This is a unique moment in time when we can dramatically change the standard for how we approach reducing death from lung cancer," said Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer. "It's no longer just about tobacco control, which remains vitally important. Now, screening also has an essential role to play. Our goal is to reach high-risk individuals and their health care providers to ensure screening is part of their regular health care conversations. Screening is not for everyone, but it must be a priority for those who are at high risk."

    Read more comments by Dr. Wender.

    Smoking causes about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths, and those at highest risk of lung cancer are those who have smoked the most.

    ACS and other organizations recommend:

    • Lung cancer screening for healthy patients beginning at age 55 who have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history, calculated by multiplying the average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person has smoked. Medicare will cover screening for adults in good health up to age 77, and private health plans will cover screening up to age 80.
    • Cessation counseling for urrent smokers.

    The National Lung Cancer Roundtable will bring together the key groups that, collectively, have the power to make screening a nationwide priority, have a meaningful impact to increase screening rates among high-risk populations and assure that the highest quality screening is standard across the country. The Roundtable will create a common agenda and strategy across all groups. 

    Roundtable members include health organizations such as radiological, surgical, pulmonology, and primary care organizations; advocacy groups; corporate entities and health insurers; and federal and state agencies.

    While the Roundtable's primary focus is increasing screening among high-risk populations, it will also work to ensure those who are diagnosed with lung cancer receive timely, patient-centered, state-of-the-art care during all stages of the disease.

  • 80% by 2018: Serving the most vulnerable populations to increase screening rates

    March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and our efforts in March and year-round support the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable's goal to screen 80% of age-eligible individuals by the year 2018. Every Wednesday this month we will highlight the work of American Cancer Society staff and partners to reach this goal.

    Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve more than 24 million people each year. They are one of the largest networks for health care across the country. FQHCs must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, and have an ongoing quality assurance program.

    The American Cancer Society is working with FQHCs to improve screening rates for colorectal cancer. "Our primary care staff are trained to serve as experts to these systems," said Morgan Daven, strategic director for primary care systems. "They provide coaching and counsel to help these systems implement the right interventions to improve screening rates."

    Abby Moler, senior manager of primary care, and her team of health systems staff in the Lakeshore Division, work to raise the colorectal screening rate by matching the flu shot with a colorectal cancer screening tool. "We started an initiative this year with local health departments and hospital systems to give out FIT kits to age-eligible individuals that come to the health clinic for their flu shot," Abby explained. FIT kits are at home tests that can detect blood in the stool. "Patients can take this test home and mail it in to their provider, and an abnormal result will be communicated to the patient and then further testing would be done."

    "Our return rate was around 26 percent which isn't quite where we wanted it to be, but we are working on how to improve the return rate and expand the program to more communities," Abby said. "It is a low-cost option for communities to implement and is an easy process to replicate." 

    Primary care staff also support the implementation of American Cancer Society CHANGE (Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity) grants. The grants build community and system capacity to promote health equity, access, and navigation to screening resources within underserved communities. The grants are awarded to more than 200 health systems to implement evidence-based interventions aimed to increase colorectal cancer screening rates. A majority, but not all, of the health systems supported are FQHCs.

    "Most of these systems have some of the lowest screening rates in the nation," said Morgan. "We are seeing success and speeding up improvement in order to meet our goal in 2018."

    "We really are a convener, bringing all of these systems together to do this important work," Morgan said. "Some of these interventions can also be expanded with our corporate partners, eliminating barriers to screening for everyone." ​