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Vermont Issues Five Year Cancer Action Plan

Cancer plan cover
Vermont Department of Health

Advocates gathered at the Statehouse in Montpelier Thursday for the launch of the state’s latest five-year action plan to reduce cancer.
The Vermont Department of Health issued its 2016-2020 Vermont Cancer Plan: A Framework for Actionon Vermont Cancer Action Day.  It outlines goals, objectives and strategic methods to better prevent, detect and treat cancers and improve survivor health.

Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen notes that while progress has been made, cancer remains the leading cause of death in Vermont.  “The overarching goal is to reduce the burden of cancer in Vermont.  And reducing it means you have to prevent it.  Reducing it means you have to detect it early and treat it appropriately. And then importantly since there are tens of thousands of survivors in Vermont you have to insure that you’re doing everything you can to improve their lifestyle.”

The report graphs data from the Vermont Cancer Registry showing that the incidence of breast cancer leads among Vermont women and prostate cancer among Vermont men.  They are followed by lung cancer among both sexes.  Mortality rates are highest from lung cancer, followed by breast and prostate.  Other top cancers are uterus, urinary, colon, pancreas, and skin melanomas.   

Dr. Chen notes that about one-third of cancers are preventable and are related to behavioral risks.   “One of the things that we’re starting to roll out at the Health Department is we call it the 3-4-50 Campaign. In Vermont there are three behaviors: tobacco, poor diet, and lack of physical activity that lead to four diseases. Number one cancer, heart disease and stroke, lung disease and diabetes that cause half of the deaths. So letting people know that in a way that’s easily understood I think would be important for individuals to make those important lifestyle changes that they need to.”

House Speaker Shap Smith attended the launch of the five-year cancer plan.  He had been a candidate for governor, but withdrew after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Smith says the plan doesn’t directly impact his family, but rather reinforces what the state must do.   “We need to reinforce and encourage treatments and early detection and that’s what the plan really is about is coordinating the entities that can do those things.”
Commissioner Chen finds that most people have been, or will be, affected by cancer.   “Four in ten individuals will have cancer in their lifetime.  And so it really touches virtually everybody, whether it be you as an individual, as a survivor, or your family.  So I asked people to raise their hands if they were a survivor and then I asked them if they were a direct relationship to a survivor.  And as you might imagine most of the hands in the room were up.  So I think when it comes right down to it, it’s the community that supports the cancer survivors and their families. And to the extent that we’re successful, the lifestyle and the quality of life will be that much better.”

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