Betty Williams says giving up crack cocaine was easier than her ongoing struggle to quit cigarettes. “A cigarette is a friend,” said Williams, who lives with schizophrenia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with mental illness account for 44% of the cigarette purchases in the United States, and they are less likely to quit than other smokers. High smoking rates among people with mental illness contribute to poorer physical health and shorter lifespans, generally 13 to 30 years shorter than the population as a whole. About 37% of men and 30% of women with mental illness smoke.
Advances in early detection and cancer treatments have resulted in a 27 percent decline in cancer deaths in the U.S. in the last 25 years, but those benefits are slow to trickle down to those who are lower on the socioeconomic scale, according to a report by the American Cancer Society. In the nation’s poorest counties, the cancer mortality rate is 20 percent higher than in the most affluent counties, and “the difference is much larger for cancers that are the most preventable: cervical, colorectal and lung,” said Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of Surveillance Information Services at the American Cancer Society and an author of the study. Robert Ciemniewski, 57, a longtime smoker from Connecticut, was on the wrong side of the statistical divide when he walked into the emergency room in 2017 with breathing difficulties from what he thought was pneumonia. He did have pneumonia, but he also had advanced lung cancer. Ciemniewski had not had a health checkup since 2013, when he quit his job as a mailman to care for his ailing mother.
In 2015, the Rev. Nancy Butler, the charismatic founder of Glastonbury’s Riverfront Family Church who died earlier this month, was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Neither the advanced degrees she and her husband, Gregory B. Butler, earned nor his experience as a corporate lawyer prepared them for the complexities of the health care system. “My wife gets sick and I don’t have a clue how to navigate,” Greg Butler said. “This stuff is enormously complicated. What does your insurance cover?
When the American Cancer Society announced new guidelines for mammograms a week ago, the response on the organization’s Facebook page was swift. “For adoptees, this just adds 5 more years of potential unknowing,” wrote Angela from Connecticut. “Without a medical history, we are denied mammograms through insurance carriers.”
And then Dr. Henry Jacobs, a Hartford area longtime OB-GYN who, among other duties, serves as the Connecticut State Medical Society president, took to Facebook, too, and posted a message that summarized the general rage: “It is clear that rationing care is the new sales pitch and sacrificing women that could live out their lives is considered acceptable. I think it is UNCONSCIONABLE!!!!!!! We can afford athletes, entertainers, CEOs, hedge fund scammers that make upwards of a 100 million $$$$$ a year, but we can’t provide decent medical care to people???
Declines in several key cancer-screening procedures among the elderly can be linked to shifts in screening guidelines issued by major public health organizations, according to recently released findings by Yale researchers. James Yu, associate professor of therapeutic radiology at the Yale School of Medicine, and Sean Maroongroge, a third-year medical student, gleaned data from Medicare billing records from 2000 to 2012, analyzing more than 230 million screenings for prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers. Yu, a member of the Yale COPPER Center (Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research Center), and Maroongroge, also tracked evidence-based screening guidelines issued by five prominent organizations: the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), and the American Urological Association (AUA). They found that the rates for mammography, which is the primary means of screening for breast cancer, declined 7.4 percent overall during the period studied; prostate screening rates rose 16 percent during the first seven years studied then declined to 7 percent less than the 2000 rate by 2012. Colorectal cancer screening rates also dropped overall.
Connecticut has a wide array of breast health resources and accredited breast centers. These organizations and institutions work to remove care barriers and collaborate on solutions and funding during the cancer diagnosis and treatment process. The following is a partial list of resources available to residents.