Cancer Prevention & Early Detection: Ensuring Access in Communities with Greatest Needs

In the past five years alone, Roswell Park reached more than 63,000 community members through evidence-based efforts for people with a higher risk of cancer who may not interact with prevention and early detection resources without this continued, purposeful outreach. With national studies revealing significant drops in cancer screenings and higher incidences of later-stage cancers due to large numbers of individuals not accessing life-saving screenings during the pandemic—especially among underserved and diverse populations — Roswell Park’s commitment to cancer prevention and early detection has proven critical to detecting cancers at their earliest stages for the most vulnerable individuals and families.

Our Community Outreach and Engagement team continues to change the course of access to cancer services among unrepresented communities. Team members representing multiple cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities share information at community centers, places of worship and grocery stores in medically underserved communities tailored to the needs of specific populations through focused, multilingual programs.

These include:

  • Witness Project educates and engages participants on early cancer detection through stories told by breast and cervical cancer survivors in places of worship and community centers and the providing of screening assistance;
  • Esperanza y Vida, meaning “hope and life” in Spanish, offers education and increases breast, cervical cancer and diabetes screenings for Latinas in rural and urban areas;
  • Over the last five years, Roswell Park has built a center globally recognized on topics of Indigenous health equity;
  • Roswell AIR partners with communities to reduce barriers to lung cancer screening among underserved communities;
  • Critical lung cancer screening. Only 6% of eligible New Yorkers screened for lung cancer, resulting in too many lung cancer patients already with advanced and difficult-to-treat diseases at the time of diagnosis. Outfitted with advanced screening technology, Roswell Park’s screening mobile van funded by the State brings life-saving lung cancer screening to New Yorkers who need it most, especially medically underserved, diverse populations and first responders like firefighters.
  • Patient navigators—culturally experienced health care team members—guide patients, family members and physicians through the healthcare system to ensure that their needs are being met.

Roswell Park built a model for patient navigation in underserved communities, employing a growing number of patient navigators working with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to get high-risk individuals to screening and early detection appointments. FQHC safety net providers offer comprehensive, high-quality primary care and multiple services to improve access to care and community resources. Patient navigators guide each patient and loved ones through their cancer journey, including coordinating screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care and in communicating with providers to ensure those facing a cancer diagnosis have the information needed to make decisions about their health care and access to resources and support they need.