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Millions of people delayed medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local oncologists are participating in a new initiative encouraging Tennesseans to schedule potentially lifesaving cancer screenings.

Led by two national nonprofit organizations with local ties — the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) and CancerCare — the “Time to Screen” campaign provides assistance and educational resources to help adults screen for six common cancers: breast, colorectal, cervical, prostate, lung and skin. The initiative lets consumers access information on the importance of screening and find local cancer screening locations through a website and toll-free hotline.

“Cancer didn’t stop for the pandemic, and you shouldn’t delay your mammogram, colonoscopy or prostate cancer screening,” said Jeff Patton, MD, CEO OneOncology, member of COA’s Board of Directors and practice member at Tennessee Oncology in Nashville.

“Preventive screenings detect cancers when they are most treatable. Don’t put it off. Adults, especially those over the age of 40, should visit TimeToScreen.org for help finding free or low-cost cancer screening options. Do it for yourself and the people you love today. A test could save your life.”

As part of the campaign, Grammy award winner and “Godmother of Soul” Patti LaBelle will appear in television, digital and radio public service announcements (PSAs) now through October 2021.

“I’ve learned timing is everything in life and right now, it’s time to take control of your health,” said LaBelle. “I know what it’s like to lose loved ones far too early to cancer. Don’t wait until it’s too late. I tell everyone, ‘Honey, it’s time to get screened.’ ”

Research has shown a considerable drop in cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment for older adults in 2020, including an 85% decline in breast cancer screenings and a 75% decline in colon cancer screenings. Time to Screen is engaging oncology practices, medical professionals and employers in Tennessee to reverse this trend, equipping adults with resources that could help them catch cancer early.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Tennessee; the state experienced the seventh highest cancer mortality rate in the United States. Black adults have higher death rates than all other racial/ethnic groups for many cancer types. Cancer is the leading cause of death for Hispanic and Latino adults. Social determinants of health including incomes, health literacy and physical access to care contribute to these disparities.

“Time to Screen” is a partnership between COA, a national non-profit advocacy group dedicated solely to independent oncology practices and the patients they serve, and CancerCare, a national non-profit that provides free, professional support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer. Screening recommendations are based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines.

People can visit www.TimeToScreen.org or call toll-free 1-855-53-SCREEN (1-855-537-2733) to learn more about cancer screenings and find a convenient location.