In our Snapshots blog series, we turn to Maine Cancer Foundation constituents - from staff, board members and other volunteers, donors, grant recipients and beyond - to share important moments in their lives related to cancer. Our series will paint a broad stroke of the cancer landscape in the state, while narrowing the focus into the rare and intimate moments that bring us all together.
Snapshots #6 is the story of Jon Henry, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at just 44 years old. His treatment caused life-altering side effects, but even in the midst of challenges, Jon found camaraderie and healing.
Paul Han, MD, MA, MPH, is the Director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Maine Medical Center Research Institute. In June 2016, Maine Cancer Foundation awarded Maine Medical Center a $400,000 grant over four years for The Maine Lung Cancer Prevention and Screening (Maine LungCAPS) Initiative. Maine LungCAPS is a multi-institution, multi-disciplinary collaboration of Maine health care providers and stakeholders. Dr. Han serves as Principal Investigator for the initiative, designed to improve the prevention, early detection and treatment of lung cancer in Maine
The month of September is dedicated to men’s health and prostate cancer. In our guest blog series, Dr. Han shares his opinions about the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths among US men. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test used to “screen” for prostate cancer—that is, to detect cancer at an early stage, when it can be effectively treated. PSA testing is currently the only available screening test for prostate cancer, and for many years it has been widely used.
PSA screening has also been controversial. It’s not a perfect test because it misses some cancers (leading to false reassurance), and can also produce false-positive results (“false alarms”), which can lead to unnecessary anxiety and prostate biopsy procedures. And although prostate cancer can be aggressive and lethal, many of the cancers detected by the PSA test will never grow, spread, or cause additional problems.
Maine is the most rural state in the nation, which bodes well for scenic landscapes, but proves difficult for residents traveling long distances for cancer care. Connie Garber, former Transportation Director for York County Community Action Corporation (YCCAC), frames the issue to explain the necessity for transportation assistance. “Recall a time when your car was unavailable to you for a day,” she said. “What does this do to your normal course of action over the day? How disrupted was your personal mobility?” This day-in-the-life scenario is easy to conjure for even the most affluent Mainer, and the upset to routine is undeniable.
For thousands of Mainers, lack of transportation is an overwhelming burden. Individual travel needs can be as varied as cancer itself; one person might require short-term assistance to and from radiation treatment (typically lasting just six weeks) because friends or family are unavailable. Another patient might have a disability which requires a specialized vehicle. “There’s no one approach to transportation,” said Garber. “We take it for granted so easily, but there are many permutations to what transportation needs are for people."
Maine Cancer Foundation is currently funding several cancer patient transportation grants, including one at Lake Region Senior Service, Inc. Executive Director Dana Hanson believes in community-based transportation programs, which he says most effectively address gaps in Maine’s services. Mr. Hanson also notes that Maine has a significant senior population; their needs, including transportation, will only continue to grow in the years ahead.
Since 2012, Maine Cancer Foundation has given over $50,000 in transportation grants to DSCF to support cancer patients in Midcoast Maine who travel to and from treatment.
Your generous support helps ease the burden of transportation costs for cancer patients in our state. Thank you!