This week is National Lab Week here in the United States. Throughout the week, we are celebrating and recognizing the demanding work and dedication of lab workers throughout the country. Lab professionals of all backgrounds are integral to the advancement of scientific understanding. In the case of healthcare lab professionals, they are also essential to identifying and diagnosing diseases to maintain the health of the general population.
Population health is reliant on preventive health measures. Preventive health measures can be categorized as primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. Secondary prevention focuses on screening and detection of an illness or condition in its earliest stages, such as receiving an annual checkup from a general physician or going to the dermatologist to make sure one has not
Secondary prevention is integral to maintaining the health of Americans nationwide. Because of a variety of environmental and societal factors, even genetic predispositions, not all diseases are easily prevented. In such cases, we rely on early detection of disease to reduce disease progression. A common example of a disease reliant on effective secondary prevention is cancer. In November of 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Cancer Institute released a data brief summarizing the incidence and relative survival by stage at diagnosis for common cancers (Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). The collected data is classified by “summary stage”—localized, regional, distant, and unknown— and contains cases collected between 2014 and 2018. The data brief further outlines the average annual number of new cancer cases by cancer type and stage at diagnosis, as well as the 5-year relative survival percentage for common cancers (Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021).
Common cancers with an accessible secondary prevention measure, a method of screening the body for cancer before substantial disease progression, have a higher 5-year survival rate. Of the 161,340 cases of Female Breast Cancer detected at the localized stage, 98% of the patients were still living 5 years post-diagnosis (Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). Of the 14,371 cases of Female Breast Cancer detected at the distant stage, 30% of the patients survived 5 years post-diagnosis. Prostate Cancer provides a similar outlook—of the 140,632 cases identified at the localized stage, 100% survived 5 years post-diagnosis. Of the 14,727 cases of Prostate Cancer identified at the distant stage, 32% survived 5 years post-diagnosis (Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). For these types of common cancer, most cases were identified in the localized stage, via a mammogram or prostate exam, giving the affected patients a better chance of survival—not to mention a less intensive course of treatment. Common cancers without an accessible secondary preventive measure, such as Lung Cancer, highlight how dangerous the lack of early detection can prove for the patient. 53,044 cases of Lung Cancer were identified at the local stage—102,584 cases were identified at the distant stage. 57% of localized Lung Cancer cases survived 5 years post-diagnosis, but only 7% of distant Lung Cancer cases survived 5 years post-diagnosis (Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021).
The identification of cancer, localized, regionalized, distant, and unknown, is performed by cytologists, histologists, pathologists, and supporting staff in labs across the country. Our pathologists are, as a result, the backbone of the United States’ public health secondary prevention effort. The proper support, funding, research, and recognition of these pathologists, as well as the various lab staff members that keep these health facilities functioning, therefore, cannot be overstated. Here at Scimedico, we recognize and applaud these workers, and we will continue to offer our services in support of labs across the country.
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November). Incidence and Relative Survival by Stage at Diagnosis for Common Cancers. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/uscs/about/data-briefs/no25-incidence-relative-survival-stage-diagnosis.htm?msclkid=b9ce115cc62411eca4957c6b0bc1ebf5