When it comes to dealing with breast cancer and other forms of cancer, priority No. 1 is educating the public.
In 2014, the job of raising awareness about the disease, the need for screening and treatment and support options for those who have been diagnosed underwent a change in direction.
The New York State Department of Health announced last year that it had selected Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to administer the county’s Cancer Services Program.
Previously overseen by officials from the Niagara County Health Department, the Cancer Services Program is responsible for delivery of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening and diagnostic services to eligible uninsured and underinsured residents.
The program involves all existing partners in the cancer services program, including the county health department. It also counts among its supporters Memorial’s 50 Niagara Health home partners, local businesses and the medical center’s network of 10 New York State of Health insurance navigator sites.
In the months since the announcement, officials from NFMMC have been working with the county health department, other county hospitals and health care providers to help eligible individuals diagnosed with breast cancer and other forms of cancer to obtain comprehensive treatment services.
Through the program, participating organizations are able to distribute educational materials, sponsor or host screening and outreach events and assist in promoting cancer awareness goals.
Niagara County Public Health Director Dan Stapleton said his office supported the state’s decision to transition oversight of the program to the Falls hospital, which he described as well equipped to provide all the services a program tied to cancer diagnoses and treatment needs.
“They have all the services to diagnose the cancer and they also have the physicians and the specialists to recommend the treatment,” Stapleton said. “Everything was right there. The transition makes sense.”
Former Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble was appointed to lead the NFMCC Cancer Services program last year.
“Our mission is to provide cancer screening to the uninsured population of Niagara County,” she said.
Although Memorial is now the lead agency in charge of the program, the county health department remains active in its role of helping to educate the public about cancer diagnosis and treatment, according to Stapleton.
The county’s former director of public health education Claudia Kurtzworth retired recently and Stapleton said a new person has been hired to assume her duties. That individual will start as the county’s new public health education director on Oct. 13.
Stapleton characterized public education as the key element in any county’s efforts to reduce cancer rates and increase the application of effective treatments that can improve outcomes for cancer patients.
Social media has helped make the job easier in recent years, according to Stapleton, who said it is easier than ever to reach people who may be at risk or in need of information about treatment and other services.
“The education is the biggest thing,” Stapleton said. “Years ago, it was more difficult for people to get the information about ways they can prevent cancer.”
Breast cancer remains a particular area of concern for local health officials.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year.
In Niagara County, the most recent data from the New York State Health Department show the county’s current adjusted breast cancer rate is 133.5 per 100,000. Based on those numbers, Niagara County ranks as the third highest in terms of breast cancer rates in the eight-county Western New York area, behind only Erie and Wyoming counties which have the highest and second-highest rates respectively.
For information and screening referrals or other information about the Cancer Services Program of Niagara, individuals can call the Cancer Services Program State Call Center at 1-866-442-CANCER (2262).
BREAST CANCER DATA
The following information about breast cancer was released in 2015 by the American Cancer Society:
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About one in eight, or roughly 12 percent, of women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime;
• About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year;
• About 60,290 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer);
• About 40,290 women will die from breast cancer;
• After increasing for more than two decades, female breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing in 2000, then dropped by about 7 percent from 2002 to 2003. This large decrease was thought to be due to the decline in use of hormone therapy after menopause that occurred after the results of the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. This study linked the use of hormone therapy to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart diseases. In recent years, incidence rates have been stable in white women, but have increased slightly in African American women;
• Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3 percent). Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1989, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment and
• At this time there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. (This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.)