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On Monday, September 14, ACCC will host eight facilitated hot-topic roundtable discussions at the 37th [Virtual] National Oncology Conference. One of these, “Ramping Up Cancer Outreach and Prevention Activities In a COVID-19 World,” will allow ACCC members to network and discuss how the virus has impacted their outreach and prevention efforts and how they have responded in their communities.
COVID-19 has profoundly impacted the nation’s healthcare. Not only were elective procedures put on hold to prioritize safety and urgent needs related to the public health emergency, but cancer screenings were also delayed. In a June op-ed, National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Norman Sharpless, M.D., pointed out the adverse impact that the pandemic is having on past, present, and future cancer patients.
“Cancers that are being missed now will come to light eventually, but at a later stage (‘upstaging’), and with worse prognoses,” Dr. Sharpless warned. “At many hospitals, so-called ‘elective’ cancer treatments and surgeries have been deprioritized to preserve clinical capacity for COVID-19 patients. For example, some patients are receiving less intense chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, and in other cases, patients' operations to remove a newly detected tumor are being delayed. There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing delayed diagnosis and suboptimal care for people with cancer.”
In response, cancer programs are working hard to get the message out about the importance of cancer screening and prevention efforts, especially to communities that are medically underserved and patient populations that are disproportionately affected by cancer and other diseases, like COIVD-19.
Janine Tucker, MSN, and Griselda (Gigi) Sanchez—who will be moderating this roundtable—are community outreach coordinators with The Cancer Center at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. Sanchez, a bilingual, Spanish-speaking coordinator, works with the Hispanic communities of Milwaukee, and Tucker focuses her outreach efforts on the city’s African-American communities. In concert, this two-person outreach team tailors their cancer prevention education and screening to best meet the needs of local underserved populations.
Before their roundtable discussion, ACCCBuzz had the opportunity to speak with Janine Tucker to learn how Froedtert has responded to the pandemic and how its community outreach team has adapted its cancer prevention education and screenings efforts.
ACCCBuzz: How did you land in this role within cancer care?
Tucker: I have worked in community health and public health for the last, almost, 20 years now. Prior to this role, I was working for another health system in their cancer center. I worked with maternal and child health and taught classes. That’s how I got into cancer care. Even prior to that, I worked here at Froedtert on another grant opportunity—breast health with African-American women. So when that role ended and the job at the other health system ended, I called Froedtert and asked if they had any positions available. I wanted to stay in cancer care, and I wanted to continue doing outreach to the underserved.
I’ve received training throughout both of those previous roles, which was specific to cancer care. But my background is in community health. Working in social work and human services is what led me to ultimately work with patients and community organizations. I also have a master’s degree in education, so that’s a big part of my job. We go out into the community to educate and do presentations; it’s not just navigation efforts. There’s a lot of education involved in my role.
ACCCBuzz: How has your team mobilized to address the challenges you have faced because of the pandemic?
Tucker: Even though Gigi and I are doing a lot of COVID-19 screening as patients come into the cancer center, we are still available to our community partners and our community organizations that we have always worked with to provide education about cancer prevention and screening. We’re always available—it may just look a little different.
We work very closely with the director of our cancer center. Initially we wanted to be safe. That’s still the priority. So we had to say “no” to a lot of activities at first. As time went by, we started up some activities that we were able to do safely—whether it was doing Facebook-related or Zoom-based education. For example, we did an event last week for mammogram and prostate screening. Gigi, my co-worker, was able to do a Facebook live [chat] to promote this free event.
ACCCBuzz: How have your communities responded to these new efforts?
Tucker: The community is embracing this new way of hearing from us. We really promoted the mammogram and prostate screening event over social media, through our community connections, and at the clinic where we held the event.
The pandemic offers an opportunity to collaborate even more closely with anyone who does this kind of work and put our resources together. We have really tried to step our game up to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Don’t miss out on an engaging discussion with Janine Tucker and Griselda Sanchez at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. To network with your colleagues and learn how other cancer programs are tailoring their cancer outreach and prevention activities in a COVID-19 world, register for the ACCC 37th [Virtual] National Oncology Conference.