Published on February 4, 2022
Updated on February 11, 2022
Today, February 4, is World Cancer Day – a united global initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) aimed at raising awareness, improving education and creating personal, collective and government action to reduce cancer deaths and improve access to lifesaving cancer treatments–no matter who you are or where you live. The reality is that who you are and where you live could mean the difference between life and death when it comes to preventing and surviving cancer. This year’s campaign theme is “Close the Care Gap,” which is about understanding and recognizing the inequities in cancer care around the globe. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world.
The Prevent Cancer Foundation aims to close the care gap and reduce cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing in research in innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, expanding cancer screening access to individuals who are disproportionately impacted and medically underserved and educating the public about screening and vaccination options. Learn more about how we are rising to meet this challenge.
On January 10, the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury collectively issued guidance requiring private insurers to cover colonoscopies when needed as a follow-up to a non-invasive colorectal cancer screening test. This new guidance will ensure that insurers and plans are required to cover a follow-up colonoscopy, without cost-sharing, if there are indications of colon-related bleeding, for all people ages 45 and older.
Health plans must provide this coverage without cost-sharing for plan years beginning on or after May 31, 2022. If your health insurance plan has a start date which begins prior to May 31, 2022, check with your insurer because they may not include this coverage until next year. The new guidance does not apply to individuals who have coverage through traditional Medicaid and Medicare plans. Leading cancer advocacy organizations are working to further expand this coverage so that all individuals who need a colonoscopy can access one.
Despite preventive screening options, colorectal cancer remains the second leading cancer killer in the United States. In 2018, only 68.8% of those eligible were screened for colorectal cancer. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this problem, as colorectal cancer screenings declined by 86% during the first few months of the pandemic. The Prevent Cancer Foundation encourages people to start screening at age 45 if you’re at an average risk, but if you have certain risk factors you may need to start screening sooner or get screened more often–talk to your health care professional. The good news is that colorectal cancer is preventable. Because most colorectal cancer cases start as precancerous polyps, getting screened is the most effective way to reduce your risk. Visit too young for this sh*t to learn more about colorectal cancer in adults under 50.
In January, the American Cancer Society released their Cancer Facts & Figures 2022 report which provides nationwide and state-specific estimates of new cancer cases and deaths for the current year. Overall, the report estimates 1.9 million (1,918,030) new cancer diagnoses and 609,360 cancer deaths in the United States for 2022. Of note in this year’s report is that lung cancer patients are being diagnosed earlier and living longer thanks to increased access to health insurance that is more available, affordable and comprehensive due to patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. Increased access to lung cancer screening and improved treatments made possible by federal investments in cancer research have also helped increase the survival rate from 21% in 2004 to 31% in 2021.
Another highlight is that the risk of death from cancer overall has been declining continuously since 1991, with about 3.5 million cancer deaths avoided as of 2019. Improvements in treatment and early detection, along with a decrease in the number of Americans who smoke, are the main reason for this decline.
However, racial, socioeconomic and geographic disparities persist for highly preventable cancers, an alarming issue exacerbated by unequitable access to interventions such as routine screenings, HPV vaccination and treatment advances. For example, Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer despite having lower rates of breast cancer than white women. The Prevent Cancer Foundation is determined to ensure social determinants of health don’t determine who can access prevention knowledge and early detection services. To learn more about our mission to address preventable cancers across all populations, visit our website.
On February 2, President Biden announced at a White House event a new plan to revive the Cancer Moonshot initiative and reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years. In 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden initiated the Cancer “Moonshot” program. Now, President Biden is relaunching the program with an ambitious goal to diagnose cancer sooner and increase ways to screen for cancer, with a focus on equity and addressing inequities across race and religion. Leading cancer and health advocacy organizations, including the Prevent Cancer Foundation, participated in the White House event.
The Foundation strongly supports President Biden’s call to action for cancer screenings to be available across all populations to prevent cancer or diagnose it sooner, jumpstarting progress on the more than 9.5 million screenings that were cancelled or postponed in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read our full statement of support.