CHARLOTTE – Celebrated on the 4th day of February every year is National World Cancer Day. The day is dedicated to bringing awareness, providing education, and bringing together organizations to create, design, and bring awareness to cancer care. Each year the design of the day surrounds the idea that we work together, patients and physicians, to reimagine a world where cancer deaths are preventible and lives are saved.
This year the theme of the day was “Close the Care Gap.” The focus this year was on understanding and recognizing the inequities that cancer care around the world presents. These inequities in cancer care cost many lives each year, and it is time to bring awareness to the community about resources available all around us. Many people may become discouraged seeking cancer care and experience a variety of barriers including non-medical issues related to income limitations, discrimination, education, geographical location and even getting access to care. Along with these barriers, COVID-19 has created a whole new variety of obstacles including delays in screenings, which has caused a rise in advanced staged cancers, especially for low-income people. The goal is to be able to provide everyone access to cancer screenings and treatments that are life-saving, equitable care for all no matter who you are or where you are.
“Statistics show that outcomes are worse for minority groups when it comes to a cancer diagnosis,” advocates Dr. Lilian Harris, a Hematologist, and Oncologist at Novant Health Cancer Institute in Mint Hill. “Providing good care requires us to address the disparities among minority groups such as clinic locations, access to treatments, and financial support.” Harris and the team at Novant Health are focused on “Closing the Gap” in cancer care. Even before the pandemic began, they had put strategies in place to create clinics in the community to address the accessibility and create equal care, but now more than ever it is important for the community to be able to access cancer care without any barriers. These clinics have been designed to provide screenings and medical care, along with also being able to address transportation issues, meals, and information for those seeking jobs. The clinic as a whole is dedicated to “Closing the Gap” from care for day-to-day life to care that surrounds cancer screenings and treatment care.
It is so important to ensure that inequities are “broken down” and we can start to reimagine a world where cancer deaths are preventible and lives are saved each day. The first step to this process is making sure as a patient that you are talking with your primary care physician about your health including past medical and family history. Having a communication path to your primary care physician is very important, and with technology that has been presented since the start of the pandemic, it is easier now than ever to be able to have that conversation with your doctor. One of the first steps to “Closing the Gap” to cancer care is to make sure that each year you discuss with your doctor screenings that should be performed. Screenings are one of the ways that cancer care can be most effective, and they save millions of lives each year. The procedures surrounding the screenings are very important to have done at certain milestones in your life. Preventive care and cancer screenings are part of trying to create a world where cancer is preventable and life-saving treatment and care are accessible to all no matter who they are.
The positive movement that created World Cancer Day as a leading international awareness day has brought together many initiatives to bring together the inspiring advancement that cancer can be prevented, diagnosed early, and treated without any barriers at any turn during life.
So this year, make sure that you talk to your physician about screenings; talk to your family and friends about screenings, share your experience, and let’s work together to “Close the Gap.” Proactive care and active communication with your primary physician is the first step. Make sure you take that “step” today.