Published on January 7, 2022
On January 4, multiple leading cancer and health equity organizations, including the Prevent Cancer Foundation, sent a joint letter to President Biden, Vice President Harris and congressional leadership, urging them to prioritize policies that increase access to scientific advancements in cancer early detection. The letter highlights the enormous challenges our nation faces as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to battle cancer and other diseases. Each year, we lose more than 600,000 Americans to cancer. Due to the steep drop in cancer screenings caused by COVID-19, we are bracing for a surge in late-stage diagnoses.
Multi-cancer early detection testing offers a unique opportunity to impact cancer care in the years to come. Early detection and diagnoses save lives, lower treatment costs and improve quality of life, but current Medicare coverage is limited to screenings for just five out of the hundreds of cancer types. As previously reported, the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act of 2021 (S.1873/H.R. 1946), if passed, will reduce barriers to innovative multi-cancer screening technologies for adults ages 65 and older with Medicare. Specifically, the bill would create a pathway to allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to evaluate these tests for coverage once they are approved by the FDA and shown to have clinical benefit. This has the potential to provide patients and providers with access to these vital tests on a much broader scale.
Importantly, passage of the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act of 2021 will advance cancer equity by addressing the significant disparities that exist in late-stage diagnosis which contribute to worse outcomes for people of color. Extending the benefits of early detection to more cancers, and to more people, could play a significant role in reducing the risk of poor outcomes for cancer patients. The Prevent Cancer Foundation urges Congress and the president to pass and sign the bipartisan Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act of 2021 now.
As designated by the United States Congress, January is Cervical Health Awareness Month (some organizations also recognize this as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month). Each year, more than 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer–cancer that has spread from the surface of the cervix to tissue deeper in the cervix or to other body parts–and more than 4,200 die from the disease.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries. With the availability of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, we can protect against the virus that causes more than 90% of cervical cancers. An HPV test can also detect the presence of this virus before cancer develops. By screening with a Pap test (alone or in conjunction with an HPV test), your doctor can detect precancerous conditions in the cervix, or detect the cancer in early stages. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.
Through an August 2021 survey conducted by the Prevent Cancer Foundation, it was found that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased hesitation among women to attend routine cancer screenings. Twenty-six percent of women and people assigned female at birth did not schedule a cervical cancer screening during the pandemic. But there is good news. With vaccines for COVID-19 readily available, women are reporting that they now feel more comfortable scheduling doctors’ appointments, and 65% of women said in August that they planned to prioritize scheduling cervical screenings before the beginning of 2022.
The Foundation also supports legislation to raise awareness of HPV vaccination and provide cervical health education. As previously reported, the Promoting Resources to Expand Vaccination, Education and New Treatments for HPV Cancers Act (PREVENT HPV Cancers Act), H.R. 1550, if signed into law, 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.
Access more information about early detection and cancer screenings and learn more about cervical cancer.
On December 20, 2021, several groups, including the Prevent Cancer Foundation, joined together to form the Cancer Early Detection Alliance (CEDA), a unique collaboration of patient, provider and industry advocates. CEDA is committed to using its collective voice to identify and advance policies that remove barriers to cancer screening, eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in cancer screening and improve access to innovations in early cancer detection to save lives.
Founding members of CEDA are the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), American Urological Association (AUA), Colon Cancer Coalition, Freenome, Guardant Health, LUNGevity, Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, Prevent Cancer Foundation and ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer.
Initial CEDA priorities will focus on how current mechanisms that influence access and uptake of early cancer screening, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations, can be adapted to better reflect patient needs and the rapid pace of research and innovation. As part of this work, CEDA will explore regulatory and legislative opportunities to ensure patients receive timely access to new screening tools once approved for use. The Prevent Cancer Foundation will provide updates on CEDA’s efforts to improve access and promote early cancer detection.