State's aggressive cancer approach paying off

May 9, 2013

Something’s happening in Delaware that at first glance looks mystifying but on closer examination looks good. Re­ports show that the rate of people dy­ing from cancer is declining, which of course is good news. But statistics gathered by state health agencies also show that the number of cancer cases in our population is increasing.

That doesn’t sound good. So what’s happen­ing?

For the past several years, Delaware has stepped up its public awareness programs regarding the importance of cancer screening.

Recognizing that raising public awareness doesn’t do much good if people can’t afford the screening, the state has also allocated funds to pay screening costs for those without enough money or insurance for the tests.

People are taking advantage of the oppor­tunity. As a result, more cases of cancer are being detected. The good news is that early detection leads to a greater chance that treat­ment will be successful. Dr. Karyl Rattay, di­rector of Delaware’s Division of Public Health, summed up the benefits of the program dur­ing a recent press conference: “Our screening efforts are really paying off. We are identify­ing these cancers earlier, getting people into treatment, saving lives and saving dollars.”

The dollar savings arise because it is much less expensive to treat cancers detected early than cancers detected at later stages when surgery and more intensive treatment are required.

Delaware’s experience is showing that a comprehensive approach to improving healthcare can improve our quality of life and save money. But it’s also showing that life­style choices, such as tobacco use, continue to be a major source of disease. They continue to force us as a society to spend billions of dollars in healthcare treatment that could be avoided.

A nagging problem, but even in that there is good news. Delaware’s experience shows that public awareness campaigns are educating people about the dangers of tobacco. Associat­ed problems aren’t out of our control. Societal change takes time, but the payoff from efforts such as those in Delaware show that holding the course steadily and patiently is well worth the effort.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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