June is not only known as the official start of summer, but it is also important for cancer awareness and recognition. June 16 to 22 is National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week—a week dedicated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Oncology Center of Excellence, Project Community to increase awareness of the importance of clinical trial participation and specimen donations for cancer research among Black Americans. This week is also held in connection with Juneteenth (June 19)—an annual celebration recognizing the end of slavery in the United States.
Raising awareness about cancer rates in Black communities is important because Black Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers. Contributing factors include lower socio-economic status and lack of access to equitable medical care. Increasing cancer awareness through National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week and using #BlackFamCan on social media will help build equity in healthcare and, in turn, reduce cancer burden for this population.
Screening and Prevention
Research shows that cancer screening rates are lower among Black populations. This is attributable to a variety of factors, including degree of insurance coverage, geographic differences, provider recommendation, and perceptions of cancer screening. Cancer screening guidelines are largely developed based on published and collective clinical evidence. Since clinical trials are largely under-representative of Black communities, screening guidelines may not adequately reflect risk factors and cancer incidence of this population.
To help increase cancer screening rates among all diverse American populations, the White House relaunched the Cancer Moonshot initiative.
The goals of this initiative include:
Improving cancer screening
Targeting effective treatments to patients
Developing approaches for deadly and rare cancers, including childhood cancers
Supporting patients, survivors, and caregivers
Learning more from people living with cancer.
Additionally, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) has worked with its partners to develop and implement the Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative to increase lung cancer screening in rural America. Recognized by the Biden Administration’s Cancer Moonshot reboot, the Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative looks to improve early detection and cancer care delivery in the region with a particular emphasis on underrepresented people, including Black Americans.
ACCC member program leadership called for this screening initiative in reaction to the steep declines in cancer screening rates that were precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Best practices and screening resources will be collected and shared with ACCC pilot sites, with the potential to engage up to 30 percent more eligible individuals in its first five years. Upon completion, learnings from this initiative will be disseminated to all 30,000 ACCC members nationwide.
“Appalachia has the highest rate of lung cancer mortality in the country, and ACCC will bring all stakeholders to the table to comprehensively address existing barriers to lung cancer screening,” says Leigh Boehmer, PharmD, BCOP, ACCC chief medical officer. “Solving for health disparities in this region, such as generational poverty and inequitable access to healthcare, requires culturally competent solutions created with and sustained by local communities.”
Join ACCC as we raise awareness of National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week on social media using #BlackFamCan, as this is a key effort to ensuring health equity throughout the cancer care continuum. A free social media toolkit, including sample text and images, is available on the National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week website. It can be downloaded and shared to continue the conversation and inspire others to do so.
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