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Higgins & Castor lead national push for increased lung cancer screening


Mon, Sep 19th 2022 10:20 am

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center & Moffitt Cancer Center join members of Congress in discussion aimed at saving lives

House of Representatives Cancer Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Brian Higgins and Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Florida recently hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill titled “Lung Cancer Screening Saves Lives.” The event featured experts from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Moffitt Cancer Center presenting information on:

√ How advanced stage diagnosis elevates mortality risk for lung cancer patients;

√ How early detection of lung cancer can save lives;

√ Current barriers to lung screening; and

√ Policy steps to increase screening rates and greatly reduce lung cancer deaths nationwide.

Higgins said, “Lung cancer remains the deadliest form of cancer in America. We have the power to change that through increased screenings and early detection. By increasing awareness and access, we will save lives – and the heartbreak that too-often comes from a late diagnosis.” 

Castor said, “Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined, so we must double down on screenings and prevention to save lives. Fortunately, Moffitt Cancer Center, one of the nation’s premier cancer research institutes, is at the forefront of cancer prevention. Together, we are committed to saving tens of thousands of lives lost to lung cancer each year through outreach and early detection like lung screening.”

A video of the briefing is available here: https://www.facebook.com/MoffittCancerCenter/videos/8177961435611869

Three Western New Yorkers spoke at Wednesday’s briefing – two experts from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and a cancer survivor who believes her life was saved by lung cancer screening.

“We’ve identified some really concrete but not surmountable barriers. We have not done an effective job educating the providers who are supposed to be ordering these tests. As a nation, we have not informed the public that we now have an effective screening test that is going to pick their cancer up early, that they can live to see their family grow up,” said Mary Reid, Ph.D., M.P.H., chief of cancer screening and survivorship at Roswell Park, who noted that, nationally, less than 6% of those who are eligible are getting screened for lung cancer.

“I’m here because, last year, a low-dose CT scan for lung cancer saved my life,” said Colleen Medvin, who learned following lung cancer screening that she had two separate cancers (lung and breast). “Because each cancer was detected early-stage, surgery was the best option. I can’t believe how lucky I got.”

“I go out a lot and educate people about lung cancer screening. But that one statistic is so striking: Lung cancer is killing more people than breast, prostate, colorectal cancers combined,” said Nikia Clark, senior community outreach and engagement manager at Roswell Park. “It’s not in our daily lives. We’re not thinking about it until we have to think about it.”

“We have an affordable screening tool that can help catch lung cancer early, but it is underutilized. We could save 60,000 lives each year if the 14.5 million Americans who are eligible received an annual lung cancer screening,” said Dr. Jhanelle Gray, chair of thoracic oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Higgins’ team said, “In the United States, lung cancer accounts for 25% of all cancer deaths, due in large part to the fact that 69% of patients are diagnosed with late-stage disease where treatment options are limited, and survival rates are low. Fewer than 6% of people in the United States who are considered high-risk for developing lung cancer partake in screening, and the burden of lung cancer falls disproportionately on minority populations. The dialogue comes as President Biden is taking bold action to make strides to improve cancer screening, research and treatment through his ‘Cancer Moonshot’ initiative.

Higgins and Castor are leading efforts to improve access to lung cancer screening in their communities. Higgins secured $1.5 million for Roswell Park in the fiscal year 2022 budget for new and upgraded computed tomography (CT) equipment and lung cancer screening outreach in underserved communities. Castor requested $2.3 million for the Moffit Cancer Center in the 2023 budget for a mobile, electric lung cancer screening vehicle and programming to reach disadvantaged populations.

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