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!
Challenge Cancer 2020 is our visionary initiative to cut cancer rates in Maine by 2020. Our goal for a Maine less burdened by cancer requires active participation from people and communities across the state. Our success depends on inviting key stakeholders to the table to share strategy, tactics, and experience.
We recently sat down with one of our stakeholders: Sharon Snell, President of Dean Snell Cancer Foundation (DSCF). Since 2012, DSCF has received consecutive Maine Cancer Foundation grants totaling $52,500 to support transportation for Midcoast Maine cancer patients seeking treatment.
“It was like a tsunami,” said Sharon Snell, President of Dean Snell Cancer Foundation. A resurgence of esophageal cancer in her husband Dean upended the family’s hope for recovery. He was diagnosed in June 2008, and by fall 2009, lost his life to the disease.
The morning after Dean’s passing, a condolence call from an oncologist at New England Cancer Specialists (where Dean received treatment), planted the seed for a way to honor his memory. “I said to [the oncologist], ‘I’d like to start a memorial fund in Dean’s memory.’” The idea ricocheted through Dean and Sharon’s family, including their six adult children, and landed with a resounding yes. The family decided to start an independent foundation and the Dean Snell Cancer Foundation (DSCF) was born fast enough to be included in Dean’s obituary. Days after his passing, $4,000 was raised in memorial donations alone.
Since 2009, DSCF has raised over $400,000 for New England Cancer Specialists [NECS] patients. “NECS [supports] cancer patients up and down the Midcoast area. We’ve helped people from Vinalhaven to Sabattus,” Sharon noted. The organization is entirely volunteer-run, and the funds raised go directly to individual patient needs.”There are as many situations as there are patients,” said Sharon. “Early on we decided we didn’t want anyone to fill out an application or intake form. There are no restrictions and no formulas. We only provide help where needed.”