Raising awareness: September offers chance to improve cancer treatment, prevention

September 1, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

For most, the end of summer and beginning of fall brings to mind thoughts of returning to school (even if it’s virtually), or possibly trips to apple orchards or cider mills. But at the Rogel Cancer Center, it serves an even greater purpose.

“This time of year represents the beginning of a number of cancer awareness months,” said Martha Laatsch, director of community outreach for the Rogel Cancer Center. “Our community outreach program tries to feature educational events that line up with these cancer campaigns.”

Tangible benefits

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regular screenings and early detection are key to improving outcomes for patients.

That’s where awareness months can play a vital role.

“If we can help people learn about cancer and some of the signs or symptoms, it’s possible that we’ll be able to better detect and treat these conditions,” Laatsch said. “There are life-saving benefits to expanding awareness to as many people as possible.”

On top of that, building awareness also increases the amount of donations that fund services for patients, as well as the research that leads to treatment breakthroughs.

Providing support

While Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October typically receives a lot of attention, it follows the month of September where seven other cancer types work to bring awareness to their diseases and prevention. 

This month, the Rogel Cancer Center is working to raise awareness of childhood cancer, gynecological cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and thyroid cancer.

“It’s important to make sure that patients and families who are managing any type of cancer diagnosis feel supported and part of the Michigan Medicine community throughout their treatment journey,” said Donna Murphy of Patient at Family Services at the Rogel Cancer Center.

That’s just one of the ways faculty and staff can provide awareness and support during these months.

“If you know a patient or family undergoing treatment for cancer, share with them resources available at Michigan Medicine,” Murphy said.

Some of these resources include:

  • Patient and Family Support Services, available to all Rogel Cancer Center patients. These complementary therapies usually refer to activities which offer a creative and/or physical outlet to reduce stress and anxiety including art therapy, guided imagery and music therapy.
  • Patient Navigation, which involves non-clinical members of the health care team who specialize in guiding patients through a complex system. They work to educate, support and empower patients throughout their cancer journey. Navigators connect individuals to resources within Michigan Medicine and in the community.
  • Rogel Cancer Center Community Outreach, a team that is committed to providing reliable health information, tailored programs and special events to educate the community about cancer prevention, screening and early diagnosis. They are addressing uterine cancer at their Autumn Health Awareness event for women on Sept. 14.

“In the end, awareness months are a lot more than sporting a ribbon for 30 days,” Laatsch said. “They allow us to refocus efforts on helping, supporting and treating those who are managing a cancer diagnosis each and every day.”