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.
Edith Baker of Plainville faced a devastating reality that patients with advanced cancer inevitably confront. She had stopped responding to conventional treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy could no longer contain her stage 4 bladder cancer. But there was a ray of hope. Baker’s oncologist at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center referred her to a clinical trial at UConn Health involving two immunotherapy drugs: the FDA-approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab) from Merck & Co., credited with successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma; and Epacadostat (IDO1 inhibitor), an experimental drug from Incyte Corp.
A new program offering free ultrasound screenings to young black women aims to raise awareness about the high incidence of aggressive breast cancers in African Americans. The Connecticut Breast Health Initiative has awarded a $33,350 grant to begin a five-year breast ultrasound screening study involving black women ages 25 to 39. “We need to get the word out,” said Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a breast surgeon at the Hospital of Central Connecticut who applied for the grant. “Young African American women are developing aggressive tumors and nobody understands why.”
The study will examine the effectiveness of breast ultrasound as an early detection tool for aggressive tumors in young black women. Women can get the screenings at two sites: the Medical Arts Center in Plainville adjacent to the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Imaging Center of West Hartford.
Missed Wednesday’s chat on breast cancer? If you did, you can view the discussion with Dr. Kristen Zarfos by going to courant.com/beyondpink. Zarfos, the director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Program at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, division of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, answered questions on mammography, genetic testing and lifestyle risks, among others. This live chat was a collaboration of the Conn. Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org), which in October held a forum on breast cancer, and the Hartford Courant.
Do lifestyle choices increase your risk of breast cancer? Should you continue breast cancer screening after age 65? Should you get genetic testing if your mother had breast cancer in her 80s? Dr. Kristen Zarfos, the director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Program at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, division of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, will answer your breast cancer questions during a live web chat on courant.com, Wednesday, from 12:30-1 p.m.
Zarfos, who successfully advocated to end the practice of “drive-through mastectomies’’ in Connecticut, will answer questions on the latest inroads in screening, treating and preventing cancer. This live chat is a collaboration of the Conn. Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org) , which in October held a forum on breast cancer, and the Hartford Courant.
Thanks to the CT-N Connecticut Network, C-HIT’s women’s health forum — “Beyond Pink: New Frontiers In Screening, Treating & Preventing Cancer” — is available on demand. C-HIT’s Oct. 21 forum featured a panel discussion by leading breast cancer experts: Dr. Anees Chagpar, the head of the Breast Center – Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a surgeon at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, and Dr. Regina Hooley, a Yale radiologist. They were joined by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. To view the video, click here.
US Rep. Rosa DeLauro and leading breast cancer experts from The Breast Center-Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven and the Hospital of Central Connecticut will be the featured panelists at a unique community forum organized by the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org), a non-profit news service that provides in-depth coverage of health care issues. The forum – “Beyond The Pink Ribbon: New Frontiers In Screening, Treating and Preventing Cancer” – will focus on the latest inroads and challenges in breast cancer detection and treatment. The event is open to the public, and early registration (at www.c-hit.org) is encouraged. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit The Breast Center – Smilow Hospital and C-HIT’s ongoing health journalism. Speakers include: Dr. Anees Chagpar, director of The Breast Center – Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, who led the effort for Yale to become the first NCI designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Northeast to have a nationally accredited breast center; Dr. Regina Hooley, a radiologist and researcher at the Yale Cancer Center who specializes in ultrasound screening, mammography and breast density; and Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a renowned surgeon and women’s health specialist at the Hospital of Central Connecticut who led a successful grassroots campaign to ban “drive-through” mastectomies in Connecticut.