Today is National Cancer Survivors Day, a time to celebrate the almost 17 million cancer survivors in the United States. As a bone cancer, melanoma and breast cancer survivor, this is one of my favorite days because it’s a day to celebrate life beyond cancer. And also be aware of simple ways to help improve cancer care access for others.
Celebrate advancements in cancer care.
The good news is that more people are surviving and living beyond cancer. In fact, it’s predicted there will be over 22 million cancer survivors in the U.S. by 2030! And , thankfully, the overall cancer death rate continues to mostly decline (although some cancers are on the rise).
There have been many advancements in preventive programs, treatment and research. I’m alive thanks to preventive screenings and research that led to better surgery, radiation and chemo drugs.
We still have work to do.
But not everyone has access to the treatment, advanced surgery and state of art medical facilities like I did. Sadly, too many people don’t. And this can cause a negative impact on their diagnosis, stage of cancer and treatment options.
Consider that people without health insurance are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a late stage, when the disease is harder to treat, more costly and more difficult to survive. Also, people living in lower income areas often lack easy access to preventive screenings, clinical trials, some treatment options and other barriers to healthcare.*
An American Cancer Society study shared that African American/black individuals in the U.S. bear a “disproportionate share of the cancer burden, having the highest death rate and the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group for most cancers.” And studies also show that income level is the most critical factor causing racial inequalities.*
Everyone diagnosed with cancer deserves the opportunity to fight their disease and have opportunities to live beyond cancer. These simple ways to help improve cancer care access can make big impacts:
Advocate for change.
There are many opportunities to make a difference in the fight against cancer and help others. Using your voice and taking action can make a major difference. Read five simple ways to advocate for change.
Volunteer and donate.
There are many amazing organizations that support cancer survivors from diagnosis to living beyond cancer. Get involved with an organization that aligns with your viewpoints, offer your time and talents to help others – for instance, offer to drive people to appointments, connect patients with resources to assist, mentor and more.
Don’t ignore it.
The reality is that not everyone has equal access to preventive programs and care. And these gaps in care won’t go away without attention and action. Everyday issues, including lack of food, shelter, employment, can cause major gaps in care for some populations. Also, too many Americans have little or no insurance coverage. People should not have to choose between eating, keeping a home or cancer treatment. We all need to care about these inequalities because it can overall affect care for everyone.
To my fellow cancer survivors – CHEERS to good health and a wonderful life full of love and adventures!
*American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, National Institutes of Health