Newswise — The American Cancer Society (ACS) has announced an $80,000 partnership with Atlantic Health System Cancer Care to help encourage more New Jersey women to get screening mammograms, as part of the national Return to Screening (RTS) initiative.  Atlantic Health System is part of an overarching cohort with more than 51 institutions across the country to drive quality improvement processes and interventions in order to deliver cancer screenings appropriately, safely, and equitably during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Atlantic Health System is the only New Jersey health system chosen to participate in the initial RTS cohort.  The $80,000 grant will be divided among four Atlantic Health System sites. 

“We are honored to be the first New Jersey health system to be selected for this critically needed initiative,” saidLydia Nadeau, executive director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. “We were chosen due to our commitment, focus and success in raising awareness about the need for continued cancer screening during the pandemic through our Cancer Hides campaign, as well as through our long-time #AskHer breast cancer awareness campaign.”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, elective medical procedures across the country, including cancer screening, were largely put on hold to prioritize urgent needs and reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in health care settings. One consequence of this has been an immediate and substantial decline in cancer screening. In response, ACS started the RTS initiative to support public health agencies, health care providers, and screening advocates across the nation to promote and deliver cancer screening appropriately, safely, and equitably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cancer Hides” was developed following a review of messaging used by national and local brands, staff and patient interviews, consumer interviews, and a survey of New Jersey consumers about their understanding of cancer and willingness to get preventative care.  More than half of the consumers surveyed felt that it was alright to delay cancer screening until after the pandemic. The campaign, which launched in February 2021 to coincide with Cancer Prevention Month, uses both traditional and non-traditional media, as well as unique placements. The goal of the campaign is to encourage both men and women to speak with their physicians about cancer screenings, particularly mammograms, as well as colorectal screenings, lung cancer screenings and pap smears, among others.  Vulnerable populations are being targeted in the campaign, and messaging is culturally appropriate and in both English and Spanish.

In addition, the #AskHer public awareness campaign is designed to increase awareness of the importance of breast cancer screenings and to encourage women in our community to schedule their annual mammograms. It is also a call to action for all individuals to have this important conversation with the women in their lives.  The campaign employs a mix of public service announcements and educational tactics, including commercials, social media messages, direct mail, radio and physician seminars.  When this campaign launched six years ago, Atlantic Health System made it easier for women to book mammogram appointments online at convenient times and locations throughout our communities.

Today, women can choose from 10 locations and use the appointment portal 24 hours a day, seven days a week to schedule daytime, evening and weekend appointments. It has had an incredible impact on prevention and screening in our community. More than 7,000 mammogram appointments were requested in the month of October 2021 alone as a result of the #AskHer campaign.  In addition, in October 2021, Atlantic Health System experienced a 50 percent increase in online mammogram appointments scheduled as compared to the same period in 2020. 

ACS is partnering with health systems across the U.S. to implement focused efforts to screen people who have historically had low screening rates and are most affected by COVID-19. These Return to Screening Quality Improvement Projects will support health systems in applying quality improvement tools and evidence-based interventions in under-resourced communities to minimize the effects of the pandemic on cancer screening.  As part of this collaboration, the American Cancer Society will award $80,000 to Atlantic Health System. The total awarded to the first series of cohorts is more than $1 million. 

In addition to funding, as part of Atlantic Health System’s involvement in the RTS initiative, the system will receive coaching and implementation support from trained American Cancer Society strategic partnership staff; access to the latest in messaging, research and tools, and connection to health systems in other states to share promising practices and challenges.

Measures of success for this initiative include: minimizing the effects of the pandemic on breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening; addressing disparities and reducing barriers to screening exacerbated by the pandemic; creating learning communities to foster best practice sharing; and executing long lasting, sustainable and meaningful processes.


About Atlantic Health System Cancer Care

Atlantic Health System Cancer Care offers an unparalleled network of cancer specialists and resources through its flagship Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown and Overlook medical centers, as well as its comprehensive oncology programs at Chilton, Hackettstown and Newton medical centers. With more than 250 cancer specialists and medical professionals, all five hospitals and Atlantic Medical Group have been recognized nationally for their role in advancing the fight against cancer. 

Atlantic Health System Cancer Care is the lead affiliate of Atlantic Health Cancer Consortium (AHCC) - the only New Jersey-based National Cancer Institute (NCI) Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP).  Atlantic Health System is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) of Phoenix, Arizona, and together they have created the Breakthrough Oncology Accelerator, a pioneering research and clinical collaboration designed to improve patient access to the most innovative and sophisticated therapies for cancer.


About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of 18,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, the system offers more than 400 sites of care, including seven award-winning hospitals. Atlantic Medical Group, comprised of 1,000 physicians and advanced practice providers, represents one of the largest multi-specialty practices in NJ.