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Prevention in Action: 50 years of cancer prevention and early detection, lawmakers’ request to CDC and more

December 3, 2021

Prevention in Action | Advocacy news for cancer prevention & early detection

Today is the 36th Anniversary of Prevent Cancer Foundation – view our journey and milestones over the years.

50 years of cancer prevention and early detection – and what’s to come

As we reported in our November newsletter, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act. The Act created more funding for cancer research, changed how we think about cancer as a nation, and established the infrastructure needed for a nationally coordinated approach to cancer. 

On November 18, 2021, Axios hosted a conversation highlighting the progress we have made in innovations for cancer prevention and treatment in the past 50 years, featuring National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Dr. Ned Sharpless, Representative Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), and Prevent Cancer Foundation President and COO Jody Hoyos. 

Dr. Sharpless shared developments that have helped cancer patients over the last 50 years, including scientific advancements in understanding the molecular biology of cancer cells, cancer databases which provide a unified repository and knowledge base that enables data sharing, and cancer screenings to detect cancers early. Despite these advances, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the number of people getting routine cancer screenings.

Rep. Sewell spoke about how health disparities have been exposed by the pandemic and how recent developments in the cancer detection space can reduce the number of people who die from cancer. The routine cancer screening tests currently available and covered by Medicare detect only five cancer types–lung (for high-risk patients), breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate–which means there are no routine screenings for most cancer types. Blood-based screening tests called multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests have the potential to detect more cancers in early stages. 

As previously reported, Rep. Sewell introduced in the House the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act of 2021 (H.R. 1946), which if passed will reduce barriers to innovative multi-cancer screening technologies for adults ages 65 and older with Medicare. The companion bill, S. 1873, was introduced in the Senate on May 27, 2021.

Ms. Hoyos shared that though we have seen a decline in cancer death rates since 1991, we still have additional work to do. A recent Prevent Cancer Foundation survey found that nearly one half of adults who had routine cancer screening appointments scheduled during the pandemic missed or postponed their appointment. Additionally, not enough people are aware of what cancer screenings they need, and education is crucial to helping the public understand what screenings are recommended. Ms. Hoyos emphasized the Foundation’s Back on the Books campaign, which was created to encourage everyone to reschedule routine cancer screenings. Routine cancer screening can detect cancer early and increases the likelihood treatment will be successful. Watch the full conversation and get your cancer screenings back on the books today.  

Mammogram

Lawmakers urge CDC to address decline in breast cancer screenings due to COVID-19 pandemic 

On November 12, nearly 40 bipartisan lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inquiring about the agency’s actions to address concerns over the recent drop in breast cancer screenings. It has been extensively reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decline in routine cancer screenings, including screenings for breast cancer. This drop is attributed to screening site closures, temporary suspension of breast cancer screening services at hospitals and other facilities and a shift in health department resources to fight COVID-19, as well as many people choosing to forgo screening in order to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus. 

Lawmakers are now urging the agency to address the decline in routine breast cancer screenings and requesting the CDC work with Congress to develop solutions to bring breast cancer screening rates back up. The letter cites data from the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program that found breast cancer screenings in communities of color are down 84% among Hispanic woman and 98% among American Indian/Alaskan Native women. 

Lawmakers with their own histories of cancer, such as breast cancer survivor Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), signed the letter and shared that any decline in breast cancer screening rates means additional suffering and heartache for people and families.  

U.S. Capitol

PREVENT HPV Cancers Act passes House 

On November 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Promoting Resources to Expand Vaccination, Education and New Treatments for HPV Cancers Act (PREVENT HPV Cancers Act), H.R. 1550. As previously reported in our April newsletter, the Prevent Cancer Foundation supports this legislation which encourages the use of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to reduce the risk of HPV-related cancers. 

Specifically, the PREVENT HPV Cancers Act will create a CDC-run national public awareness campaign to increase HPV vaccination rates (especially among males and communities most impacted by HPV cancers) and increase Americans’ understanding of HPV-associated cancers.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation hopes the bill will increase awareness of HPV and efforts for immunizations to help Americans protect their health and reduce their risk of HPV-related cancers. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. We will continue to provide updates as they become available. 

The Foundation encourages all parents to think about the link between HPV and cancer and get their kids vaccinated against HPV. Visit Think About the Link® to learn more.  


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