Here in the Equality State, where our hearts are as expansive as the horizon, we band together when times are tough. Such is the goodness of our communities that it’s not uncommon for the suffering of just a few people to spur a widespread call for a helping hand.
Last year, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis did just this through their co-sponsorship of the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act. This pivotal piece of legislation would have modernized Medicare, allowing our most vulnerable citizens access to life-saving cancer technologies.
This year, cancer will rob us of 1,000 of our friends and family. And, more than 3,000 of our citizens will learn for the first time they have the disease. Moreover, on account of our rural landscape, geographic barriers to cancer care are much higher than they would be in a metropolitan area. So it’s much harder for many of our loved ones — especially our older generations — to get to where they need to be to benefit from cancer detection tools.
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Faced with this reality, what are our options? Well, the good news is cancer screenings are about to become much more robust than at any time in history. This is important — life-saving — because if cancer is caught before it spreads, the five-year survival rate is a heartening 89%.
At the moment, we have only a handful of early cancer screens available. Pap smears, colonoscopies and mammograms are household names because they save lives. But with more than 100 different cancer types, much is missed. And, unsurprisingly, these are the cancers that cause the majority of our deaths. As a cancer director for the past 10 years with too much experience treating late-stage cancers, I have been eagerly awaiting breakthroughs in the science of early detection. I know that waiting for the science to “catch up” to the need is heartbreaking and frustrating. So, when I learned more about new technologies called Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCEDs) tests, I knew immediately that a mini-revolution in preventative care was on the way.
MCEDs, in contrast to early-generation screens, have the ability to search for dozens of cancers at one time. Physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals like myself see a future where we will no longer be testing for one cancer at a time. In practical terms for Wyomingites, we will be able to help close the geographic care-gap and launch more cancer detection efforts in rural clinics wherever you can take a blood draw.
Although the legislation did not pass both chambers in the last Congress, we applaud Sens. Barrasso and Lummis for their leadership and count on them to continue championing this issue for Wyoming.
Amy D. Smith of Laramie is President of the Wyoming State Oncology Society. The Wyoming State Oncology Society (WSOS) represents the common interest of all care providers involved in the treatment of patients with cancer throughout the state of Wyoming. We provide educational programs, networking opportunities and robust advocacy support to help practices stay ahead of the shifting healthcare landscape and meet the challenges that directly impact how they care for their patients.