Early cancer detection to save lives highlighted at MLK Jr. Day Berston celebration

By Tom Travis

“Dr. King once said that injustice in health was the most inhuman form of inequality because it leads to death that could have been prevented. Earlier detection of cancer should be accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay out-of-pocket.”   — Gary Puckrein, National Minority Quality Forum

Berston Field House was bursting at the seams with community visitors as it celebrated and remembered the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 16. Cars packed the parking lot and lined the sidewalks surrounding Berston. A stream of cars drove through the rear parking area for a food drive provided by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

Pictured left to right, Community leader and local activist, Art Woodson, Patty Graham, Plan Persident and CEO of Meridian of Michigan, (name unknown), Leigh Pearce, Director of Mi-Cares, Gary A. Puckrein, PhD President and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, State Representative Cynthia Neeley, Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Alan Walts Director of Tribal Multi-media Office for the EPA Region 5, Kevin Conroy CEO of Exact Sciences. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The day opened in the main gym with Dr. Gary Puckrein, President and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF); Kevin Conroy, chairperson and CEO of Exact Sciences;  and Patty Graham, Plan President and CEO of Meridian of Michigan. NMQF is a non-profit that has aligned itself with Cancer Stage Shifting Initiative,  and with President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot 2.0.

The mission of the Cancer Stage Shifting Initiative is to move medical standards in the country from late-stage to early-stage detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer; improving cancer care, and reducing the incidence of cancer deaths for all, with a particular focus on health equity in underrepresented populations, according to NMQF’s website.

Exact Sciences’ Chairperson and CEO, Kevin Conroy, is a Flint native, a Central High School  graduate, and the son of former Michigan legislator, Joe Conroy, now 88.  Exact Sciences is a molecular diagnostics company with an emphasis on the detection of early-stage cancers.

Meridian of Michigan is a Michigan-based provider of government-sponsored health plans.

In 2022, the White House Cancer Cabinet identified priorities to close the screening gap as well as understand and address environmental exposure. Cancer Stage Shifting Initiative aims to support efforts to increase cancer screening for at-risk communities in Flint.

Early detection key to battling colorectal cancer

The theme, spoken by all the speakers, was that Colorectal cancer is the the number two killer among men and women and is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, if detected early.

Early detection is difficult because doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially in early stages. When caught in early stages, colon cancer is treatable in 90 percent of people. Colon cancer is the third most commonly occurring cancer in both men and women. The Black community has higher rates of colon cancer than the white community. In 2018, colon cancer was expected to account for about 11 percent of cancer deaths in Hispanic men, according to the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society suggests everyone 45 years or older should ge screened even if a person feels healthy, and it doesn’t run in their family.  Statistically, Black Americans are more likely to develop colon cancer than any other group. And both Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer at later stages. This is partly due to differences in access to screening and healthcare, according to the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology.

To learn more about your screening options, including at-home noninvasive tests visit screeninghasmeaning.com or scan the QR Code in the photo above.

Health Fair included COVID and Flu vaccines

Following the opening event in the northern gym of Berston a health fair opened for the public. Health screenings were held in private offices, both COVID and Flu vaccines were provided by Hamilton Clinic.

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The health fair included booths from the American Cancer Society, Mi-Cares, Hamilton Health Clinic, The Genesee County Health Department and others. In one end of the gym Exact Sciences had a blowup of the inside of a colon. Participants could walk through and ask health professionals standing inside the blowup about what they were seeing. On the inside of the blowup were displays of what a polyp looked like

A blow up of the inside of a colon. Medical professionals stood inside as the public strolled through and asked questions. (Photo by Tom Travis)




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EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com

Author: Tom Travis

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