More than 40 years ago, the United States declared a “War on Cancer,” implementing the National Cancer Act (NCA) in 1971. For those who have wondered, “What did that really mean? What have we really accomplished?” the answer is promising.
Two new reports published last month showed that 1) cancer death rates in the U.S. have continued to decline by about 20 percent in the last 20 years (with breast cancer mortality declining by 34 percent since 1990), and 2) fewer years of life have been lost to cancer since the NCA was passed.
Today – World Cancer Day – is the perfect time to mark what we as a community, a nation, and individuals have made possible in the U.S. It’s clear that advances in research, early detection and more effective treatments, have led to more years with family and friends, more memories and more hope here in our country.
The war on cancer, however, extends far beyond our borders, with huge impacts on regions of the world where resources are scarce.
The International Association of Research on Cancer (IARC) reports that cancer cases are expected to rise to 22 million annually over the next 20 years, and cancer deaths will grow from 8.2 million to 13 million each year. Low-and-middle-income countries will feel this impact the worst as their populations grow and age: IARC reports that more than 60 percent of the world’s cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. These regions account for about 70 percent of the world’s cancer deaths.
This increase creates what IARC calls an “impossible” strain on health-care systems even in richer countries. The global impact of cancer is estimated by IARC at $1.16 trillion US dollars in 2010.
Our promise at Susan G. Komen is to save lives and end breast cancer. It’s a monumental task, but with more than $2.5 billion invested in this fight, we are working passionately towards the day when no one has to hear the words “you have breast cancer.”
We are in communities across the U.S., ensuring women and men have access to treatment, financial and social support programs. We’re in laboratories around the globe, searching for answers to some of the most challenging questions in breast cancer with more than $800 million invested to date.
And our work continues in state capitols across the country – and in our own National Capitol. Public policy continues to be a key area of focus at Komen. We are proud of our advocacy work over the years to protect breast cancer screening and research funding and to advance breast health and cancer care policy at the federal and state levels. It is absolutely critical that breast cancer patients have access to lifesaving treatment and quality breast cancer care if we expect to continue to make progress against this disease.
Guest post by Komen’s Advocates in Science (AIS) member, Karen Durham.
After finding a suspicious lump in October 2008 and undergoing a series of tests and scans my diagnosis was confirmed in Feburary 2009 – I had metastatic breast cancer. After much discussion with my oncologist, she began searching for a clinical trial that I could participate in.
Within a month, I enrolled in a trial that compared the standard of care with the standard of care plus a drug that was approved for certain leukemias. Scientific evidence suggested this drug might be useful in solid tumors like mine.
As a member of Komen’s Advocates in Science (AIS) community, I had attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in the past, and when I received the 2013 Program in the mail and saw that “my” clinical trial was going to be presented , I knew I would be attending again.
I don’t know if I can adequately describe the surreal feeling of sitting in a huge auditorium, packed with thousands of people, to hear the results of my own clinical trial. I was very fortunate to have several Komen AIS members, some Komen research staff, and a very dear friend sitting with me for support. I knew that my cancer had not grown in nearly 5 years, but did not know how the rest of the trial was progressing. I was both nervous and excited to learn more.
More than 3,500 Direct Energy Services employees demonstrated what it really means to get one step closer to a world without breast cancer when they participated in an employee program last October, walking and running more than 200,000 miles – all in the name of Susan G. Komen.
Employees wore pedometers throughout the month of October, logging the number of steps they took or miles they ran. For every mile, Direct Energy Services contributed $.50, and yesterday, Direct Energy Services Director of Retail Sales and Marketing Troy Latuff joined Komen President and CEO Dr. Judy Salerno, Komen Managing Director of Health and Program Education, Susan Brown, and breast cancer survivor Karen Murtha to show the impact every step can have in the fight against breast cancer, presenting Komen with a check for $100,000!
“I hope you know that with your donation today, you’re making it possible for Susan G. Komen to keep helping tens of thousands of people who turn to us for assistance during one of the toughest times in their lives,” said Dr. Salerno.
The funds will go to the Susan G. Komen National Treatment Assistance Fund which provides financial assistance for individuals undergoing breast cancer treatment. This Fund aims to reduce the financial and emotional stress that often comes with a breast cancer diagnosis, and helps pay for items such as medication, child care and medical equipment.
We’d like to give a big thank you to Direct Energy Services, its employees and everyone who helps make this important work possible!
Read more about the National Treatment Assistance Fund.
The following blog appeared in The Huffington Post on January 20, 2014.
Maria Shriver’s report this week on the economic crisis plaguing American women reinforces what those of us who work with vulnerable women see every day. By “vulnerable,” I mean women without insurance, without enough insurance, or without financial resources to access the health care system. Their plight is even more desperate when they are trying to access care because of a lump they’ve just discovered in their breast.
Shriver’s report is crucial to understanding a wide range of issues of vital importance to the women, families and future of this nation. To me, two lines in this report sum up key messages: “Access to affordable health care is essential to women’s economic security and well-being;” and “Leave out the women, and you don’t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the women, and you do.”
At Susan G. Komen, we work with low-income and uninsured women in thousands of communities across the country. Getting them the services they need has been a priority for our organization for all of our 32 years. And so it is enormously disheartening, in this day and age, to see women in our country at one of our free mammogram clinics with breast tumors that are likely to be advanced cancer – even some with tumors breaking through their skin. Had their cancers been detected earlier, they might have had more options or perhaps a better prognosis.
We don’t know all of the reasons why women delay seeking care, but we have good anecdotal insights. Fear and denial certainly play a role – some think that ignoring the problem may make it go away. As a practicing physician, I unfortunately saw that all too often.
But economics, especially among women, is likely the overriding issue. As Shriver’s report notes, a third of American women are living at or near poverty levels. Many are single working mothers. And women hold 62 percent of minimum-wage jobs, where taking a sick day could mean the end of the job. Those who don’t qualify for Medicaid, and who don’t have insurance, are told to bring the money for their procedures to the clinic ahead of time. The $200 that a mammogram might cost could pay for food for the family, forcing these moms to make tough choices. As a result, too many women delay seeking help.
Unfortunately, with cancer, the longer the wait, the fewer the options.