Healthy Living

The state’s five-year plan for fighting cancer may be in full effect, but the plan can only go so far if residents do not make healthy choices and receive regular checkups.

The New York State Cancer Consortium and the state Department of Health recently released the 2012-2017 Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan. The plan details the scope of the cancer burden in New York and offers suggested strategies to reduce cancer rates and improve the quality of life of individuals and families affected by a cancer diagnosis.

This is the second version of the comprehensive plan since 2003. The first version of the New York State Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan, which covered the period from 2003 to 2010, provided a strategic plan for cancer control across the state.

“It looks like they’re focusing on prevention strategies, such as smoking cessation, decreasing obesity, increasing physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption,” said Angela Swartzman deputy public health director for the county. “It looks like they’re really promoting the HPV vaccine – human papillomavirus causes most cervical cancers – and early detection for the cancers that we do have effective screenings for.”

The six priority areas in the plan include health promotion and cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, survivorship, palliative care and the health care workforce.

The plan also includes background information, measurable objectives and strategies to reduce the burden of cancer in New York state.

According to a release from the state Health Department, approximately 109,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed among residents of New York state every year. More than 35,000 residents die every year, which is more than 95 people per day. And, the effects of cancer don’t end with treatment there are nearly 1 million cancer survivors in the state who may face challenges, including those related to their physical and emotional health.

In Chautauqua County, the four hospitals – WCA Hospital in Jamestown, Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, Westfield Memorial Hospital in Westfield and Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving – service many of the health needs of residents. When it comes to cancer care, Swartzman said the area is very fortunate.

“We actually are fortunate we have the WCA Cancer Treatment Center that is affiliated with Roswell Park Cancer Institute. That’s huge,” she said. “Roswell is a clinical trial site, and we’re very fortunate to have that affiliation. Brooks Memorial Hospital also has an oncology center.”

Additionally, Swarzman said the area has Cancer Care of Western New York through Western New York Urology, which does prostate cancer treatment on-site.

The Chautauqua County Health Department also has a grant-funded program, which is part of the national early detection program for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers.

“For people who don’t have health insurance, the screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, as well as diagnostics and treatment associated with those cancers, we partner with the majority of the physicians in the county to provide that care to residents,” Swartzman said. “We are so fortunate that we have that program as well as the two oncology centers right within the county, and then to be so close to a world-renowned cancer center such as Roswell. We are very fortunate in that respect.”

The Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan recommends endorsing policies and initiatives that support health-promoting behaviors, developing systems to address disparities related to cancer screening and encouraging oncology and inpatient programs to incorporate components of palliative care. To keep the potential for a cancer diagnosis low, Swartzman recommends consuming five or more fruits or vegetables a day, aside from increasing physical activity. Additionally, she recommends not smoking and receiving screenings at appropriate age intervals.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” Swartzman warned. “You need to be careful to be obtaining information about changes and what’s good for you or not good for you from a credible source. If you are finding information on the internet, you want to go to your National Cancer Institute or your state health, local health department website.”

In Chautauqua County, Swartzman said there is no form of cancer that is prevalent over another. However, the county has its own set of problems when it comes to identifying cancer.

“What we do have in this area, though, is some later detection of cancers that could have been caught at an earlier stage, which means that individuals are not receiving those preventative screenings,” she said. “So, we need to get the word out and be sure that people are having those conversations with their doctors and having their mamograms as recommended and having their colonoscopies as recommended.”