Cancer Society unveils plans to fight disease

January 08, 1995|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

The American Cancer Society's Maryland Division yesterday called for more emphasis on early breast cancer detection, education programs for younger students and efforts to reduce tobacco consumption as part of a five-year plan to fight cancer.

"We're focusing on where we can have the most impact and save the maximum amount of lives," said C. Dale Springer Jr., chairman of the Maryland Division's board of directors. "The goals we've established are measureable, and we'll be held accountable to those goals."

About 160 American Cancer Society volunteers throughout the state attended a conference at the Turf Valley Hotel and Conference Center in Ellicott City over the past two days. They came to learn about their roles in Mission 2000. The five-year effort begins in September.

The American Cancer Society has about 44,000 volunteers in Maryland who run education programs, organize cancer screenings and raise money for research and detection programs.

The Maryland Division's new efforts are based on goals set by the cancer society's national office. Because Mission 2000 will measure its success by achieving specific goals, it represents a fundamental change in direction for the state division.

"In the past we judged our success by how many breast self-exam clinics we had, but that doesn't tell you how many breast cancers we detected early," said Eric Gally, the Maryland Division's director of communication and public policy. "Now we're saying we want to increase the number of women who have mammograms instead of talking about it."

The Maryland Division plans to place more emphasis on educating doctors about the cancer society's testing guidelines for mammograms and clinical breast exams. This approach may reduce the time spent on other detection efforts, such as educating women about self-examinations.

"Breast self-exams are important, but we can't measure that they make a difference in lives saved," said Patti Wilcox, who heads the Maryland Division's breast cancer detection and treatment programs.

The Maryland Division has planned how to reach its goal of reducing cigarette smoking among adults aged 20 and over from 23 percent to 15 percent within 5 years.

Plans include trying to increase the state's cigarette excise tax from 36 cents to $1, restricting the placement of cigarette vending machines, and increasing enforcement of laws prohibiting cigarette sales to minors.

Division officials also want more smokers to seek medical help to stop smoking.

"We know these people have a much higher success rate than those who go it alone," Mr. Gally said. "If we convince more smokers to see their doctor, and convince more doctors to counsel their smoking patients about quitting, it naturally follows more people will quit smoking."

As part of Mission 2000's plan in Maryland, cancer society volunteers will increase their efforts to teach elementary and middle school children about good nutrition habits and the dangers of smoking.

"We know if we get them to age 18 and they haven't started [smoking], they're probably not going to start," Mr. Gally said.

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