Presidential Call to Action on Cancer Screening Draws Praise From Radiology Community

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A recent presidential call to action on cancer screening is drawing praise from the radiology community.

The White House announced its relaunch of Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative on Feb. 2, hoping to cut deaths from the disease by 50% over the next 25 years. Imaging will be a key component of the revived effort, with more than 9.5 million missed cancer screenings in the U.S. resulting from the pandemic, the White House said Wednesday.

Federal officials hope to catch up by offering new access points and utilizing at-home and mobile cancer screening options, according to a fact sheet. Coinciding with the announcement, the three-person panel reporting on the nation’s progress fighting the disease issued a new report: Closing Gaps in Cancer Screening, detailing recommendations on this issue.

“We could not be more pleased with the direction that this has taken and firmly believe that there is a real opportunity here for radiology to play an increasing role in three of the four cancers (lung, breast, colon) studied by the President’s Cancer Panel,” William Thorwarth Jr., MD, CEO of the American College of Radiology, said in a Friday news update.

Other recommendations include creating communications campaigns, deploying community health workers to reach individuals, and modifying requirements to allow nonphysician providers to consult patients on lung cancer screening (as part of doc-led teams). ACR noted that radiologists played a part in investigating this issue and helping the President’s Cancer Panel compile its list of goals and guidance.

Others in the radiology community also applauded the administration’s efforts. The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance, which represents device manufacturers, called reductions in screenings during the pandemic a “ticking time bomb for too many Americans.”

The American Society for Radiation Oncology pointed to its own data, which found that 66% of docs surveyed said patients were presenting with more advanced-stage cancers amid the pandemic. Another 73% of radiation oncologists said they’ve noticed missed cancer screenings among their patients.

“These rates may be even higher for racial and ethnic minority groups, who face disproportionate burdens regarding both COVID-19 and cancer,” Laura Dawson, MD, chair of ASTRO’s board of directors, said Feb. 2. “Multiple studies show that inequitable access is driving disparate outcomes. Today's [White House] announcement highlights the critical need for multidisciplinary collaboration and prioritization of cancer research and screening to reverse these alarming trends.”

As part of its push, ASTRO and other cancer care advocates recently sent a letter to Congress, urging it to swiftly pass a 2022 spending package. Such action should include “strong support” for the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, the society and others urged.

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