Thursday, September 27, 2012

Three Steps for Tackling Cancer

This much is clear: Cancer is everywhere. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. The challenge is: How do we tackle this problem? Where is the best place to start?

Enter priority areas: specific steps we’ve identified that are proven to have a greater impact on a larger percentage of the population when addressing this worldwide problem.

Step 1: Quit the Habit
One of our biggest responsibilities in the medical community is to encourage people to stop using tobacco. Reducing tobacco usage and exposure to secondhand smoke has the potential to make a huge difference in the rate of cancer in Texas.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.
  • Almost one-third of all cancer deaths are related to tobacco.
  • Tobacco usage accounts for almost 90 percent of all deaths from lung cancer.
  • The estimated direct cost of cancer care for lung/bronchus cancer in Texas in 2007 was $1 billion.
It is essential to ensure that all Texans have an opportunity to learn about the dangers of tobacco use, and access to care when needed.

Step 2: Screen
A critical component in cancer care and prevention is early detection. Currently, cancers that go undetected can lead to tragic outcomes AND are more expensive. Screening the public for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers will help alleviate the cancer burden for Texans.

  • Breast cancer:
    • Scope: It is estimated that in 2012, 16,000 women in Texas will be diagnosed with breast cancer and another 2,800 will die from the disease.
    • Cost: $923.7 million per year is the estimated direct cost of breast cancer to the state of Texas.
    • Power of early detection: Routine mammograms can significantly reduce deaths from breast cancer. A recent survey showed that 30 percent of women age 40 and older reported not having a screening in the last two years.
  • Cervical cancer:
    • Scope: In 2012, more than 1,200 women in Texas will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and another 400 will die.
    • Cost: In Texas, the cost of care for cervical cancer was $77.4 million in the last year.
    • Power of prevention: Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and detectable cancers through screenings. Twenty-four percent of women age 18 and older reported not having a cervical cancer screening within the past three years.
  • Colorectal cancers:
    • Scope: Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women and the second leading cause of deaths overall. In 2012, more than 10,600 Texans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and another 3,700 will die from the disease.
    • Cost: In 2007, the direct cost of cancer care for colorectal cancer was over $1 billion dollars.
    • Power of prevention: If people age 50 and older have routine screenings, at least 60 percent of deaths could be avoided.
Step Three: Diagnose and Treat … but Most of All … Help People 
Cancer isn’t just about science. It is a disease that attacks people on the most human of levels: emotional, physical, practical, and spiritual. Effective diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care help ensure all patients receive timely and effective care and are equipped with what they need to fight cancer.

Palliative care is enormously helpful. Studies show this kind of care improves quality of life for patients and in some instances can prolong life. Unfortunately, Texas needs more. As of 2009 only 42 percent of Texas hospitals with at least 50 beds reported offering some type of palliative care program. The national average is much better at 63 percent. Our state needs more physicians who specialize in this kind of care. There are only 221 board certified palliative care physicians in Texas. It’s something to think about.

These are the first steps to take in the fight against cancer. For more information, and next steps, download your copy of The Texas Cancer Plan today:

Blog post contributed by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.


Vince Fonseca, MD, MPH, FACPM said...

Step 1: Prevention is more than tobacco control. Since about 20% of Texans smoke, diet/physical activity/healthy weight are more important for cancer prevention for 80% of Texans than tobacco control.

So here's a proposed amendment to Step 1:

1. Increase Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
2. Tobacco control: preventing initiation in adolescents and young adults; increasing cessation
3. Increase delivery of cancer preventing vaccines: HPV and HBV
4. Decrease harmful alcohol consumption
5. Increase UV light protection

The more we can cost-effectively prevent cancer the less cancer we will have to detect and treat. This will avoid needless suffering and costs.

Joy said...

Dr. Fonseca,

I could not agree with your comments more. VERY well said!

Joy Casnovsky

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