BY LARRY MAXWELL, MD
Department Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Inova Fairfax Hospital
Advisory Board Chair, Globe-athon
As doctors, we have an incredible ability to touch patients’ lives, often when they are going through the most vulnerable moments. In the safety of our offices, we provide consultation and facts to help with a patient’s short- and long-term outcomes. However, as soon as patients walk out of our doors, they are bombarded with myriad messages from non-medical sources about their conditions, some that are true and some that are false, but few we have control over.
It is also our responsibility to help engage patients in the dialogue regarding cancer education outside of the office to help dispel myths and keep them focused on potential treatment outcomes. Some cancer campaigns to date have been unifying, increasing public awareness and adding fundraising dollars to cancer research. But there is more we need to do as physicians.
From a health care perspective, there is a great need for educational efforts, especially for lesser-known cancers. Lack of information causes significant problems in prevention and early detection, especially in the case of gynecological (GYN) cancers. Research from the American Cancer Society reveals that only 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are caught before the cancer has spread. Due to late diagnosis, GYN cancers are harder and more expensive to treat and the survival rates are lower. Yet, ACS research also shows that when ovarian cancer is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is 92 percent.
Physicians and other medical professionals have an opportunity to share their expertise with individuals so that they can be aware of the prevention and early-detection measures they can take every day. For this to occur, physicians need to use their expertise to support initiatives that help disseminate the right information and bring awareness to the issues.
Patients, survivors and caregivers are having the conversations at home and online, and we need to continue to support these conversations to ensure information accuracy and awareness.
Movement for One Dedicated Mission
In the case of GYN cancers, there are five primary cancers -- cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar -- and multiple education and advocacy organizations involved in a variety of complementary, yet separate, initiatives. Only those diagnosed know to turn to these organizations for support.
To help unify and use our collective voice, GYN cancer organizations across the globe are organizing around one goal – ending women’s below-the-belt cancers. While each organization has its own mission and goals, we all agree that awareness is the most important component of our efforts. Globe-athon to End Women’s Cancers is a global movement to raise awareness about GYN cancers, while also serving as a catalyst for unprecedented bridge building and collaboration beyond regional and international borders.
As part of the effort last year, more than 60 countries and 130 cities hosted events to raise awareness and encourage participation in Globe-athon. During the second annual effort this year, Globe-athon will occur during four weeks in September with hundreds of events and educational seminars throughout the world to raise awareness for, and ultimately increase, early detection and prevention of GYN cancers.
With Globe-athon we are working to create a global communications grid through our multi-lingual website (globeathon.com) and social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to facilitate dissemination of information to patients and the general public, foster discussion amongst survivors around the world, and ultimately enable retrieval of survivor information to support research efforts.
The real impact, over the long run, is a global network talking about the issue and sharing solutions. With this kind of attention on below-the-belt cancers, we have the opportunity to save a generation of women.
National and international health initiatives like Globe-athon are opportunities to raise awareness about major health issues like GYN cancers in a way that help improve doctor-patient conversations, and call attention to the need for more education and research. The vast health information available is daunting for many people who are trying to take charge of their health.
When physicians and other medical professionals team up for specific health initiatives, it is a unique opportunity that brings credible and trusted resources together for one dedicated mission. Oncologists have the credible voice to inspire and inform educational campaigns to raise awareness, increase detection, and pursue prevention. Now is the time to lend your voice to the organizations and movements that need it most.