Elias Berhanu, MPH, Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center
Cancer has affected so many either directly or indirectly. This is a group of diseases that
all can agree must be cured. This year, almost 64,000 North Carolinians will be diagnosed with cancer. Through my community outreach work, I have had countless conversations with community members regarding cancer prevention and screening. we
While cancer can affect anyone, at any time, the Office of Cancer Health Equity at Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center believes that everyone should have an equal chance of surviving cancer.
Cancer treatment is very expensive, but without insurance, it is unreasonably. People without insurance coverage are more likely to wait to see a physician only when they can no longer ignore their symptoms (and more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer).
Some cancers have few or no symptoms or warning signs. Timely screening provides an opportunity for early detection, where treatment can be more successful and less costly with greater chances of survival.
A colonoscopy, the gold standard screening method, can actually prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing precancerous polyps before they develop into cancer. Research has shown that recommended colonoscopy screenings can prevent at least 60% of colorectal cancer deaths.
Since cancer is a disease of progression, any delay in detection can have detrimental effects. All four of the most deadly cancers in North Carolina (lung, colorectal, female breast, and prostate) have reliable screening methods. Individuals without health insurance are less likely to seek out recommended cancer screenings such as colonoscopies, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings. They are also less likely to have a primary care doctor and have annual wellness visits.
While we have a lot more work to do when it comes to increasing all screening rates among the insured and uninsured, closing the coverage gap will have a tremendous effect on improving access and reducing cost barriers statewide.
A quote from the late, great Representative Elijah Cummings from Maryland directly applies to North Carolina and the 11 other states that have yet to close the coverage gap: “the cost of doing nothing isn’t nothing.” Our leaders must unite, negotiate, act and learn from the devastating lessons of COVID-19. The essential workers that delivered our groceries, worked at our hospitals, and got us through the worst of the pandemic deserve this. Your neighbor deserves this. Our great state deserves this.
During June, which is National Cancer Survivors Month, I would urge you to contact our office or Care4Carolina to learn how you and your loved ones can use your voice and story to join the movement and close the coverage gap.
For a realistic look at the issue in our state through the power of storytelling, I encourage you to watch the documentary from the ACS Cancer Action Network: “Left Behind: Health and Hope in North Carolina”.