Getting Real About Cancer Screenings: New CDC Foundation PSA Uses Candid Message to Educate and Encourage People


With all that is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have forgotten that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, today screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of cervical cancer.

Many of us may feel like the pandemic has disrupted our lives and made it harder to take care of our whole selves. That’s why the CDC Foundation released a new campaign today “Get Screened for Cancer” on the importance of cancer screenings.

Over the course of the last two years, we’ve experienced the entire spectrum of emotions. We’ve even become more genuine, and maybe even a little raw, in choosing our words when sharing our feelings. This verbal awakening has given us all permission to truthfully name our feelings. It’s refreshing to admit to others and ourselves that something as simple as sharing a basket of fries between friends is ‘amazing.’ It’s also freeing and real to admit that missing your mom’s birthday due to a positive Covid test ‘sucks.’

This frankness was the inspiration for the new campaign, which takes a real approach to what many of us honestly think about getting our routine mammogram, Pap smear or colonoscopy. It sucks, right? 

The PSA, created with financial support from Amgen, and part of the Foundation’s Preventing Infections In Cancer Patients program, takes an honest approach to what many of us truly think about getting our routine cancer screenings by showing the reasons we do other dreaded chores or responsibilities: the payoff is worth it. The aim of the campaign is to use levity to encourage audiences to get screened for cancer.

Accompanying the PSA, is a new guide to cancer screenings that provides information on which screening tests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports, the recommended ages for each screening, and how to identify any free or low-cost screening programs, including CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

While there are many Americans who can get their cancer screenings but are choosing not to, access to care is a serious issue affecting many others. For example, a recent CDC study highlighted a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes when their access to medical services decreased at the beginning of the pandemic. Specifically, the study found that screenings declined by 87 percent for breast cancer and 84 percent for cervical cancer during April 2020 when compared to the previous five-year averages for that month.

The candidness of this campaign will hopefully grab people’s attention and make a difference in someone’s life: someone who possibly has been delaying their mammogram or colonoscopy until things return to something approaching normal; someone who is overdue for their Pap test but is paralyzed to act because they lost their job; someone who is a life-long smoker but terrified to get screened for lung cancer; or someone who just dreads these tests. No matter your situation, we acknowledge that cancer screenings aren’t fun. Still, we need to do them, not just for the proven scientific reason that screenings save lives, but because getting screened can give us more years of doing things with the people we love.

For more information, check out our public service announcement (PSA), Your Guide to Cancer Screenings, and website. I hope these resources and our unique approach will prompt you to schedule the cancer screenings that are right for you. It’s not fun, but the payoff is worth it!

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Angela Dunbar is campaign director for the Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients and Empowered Health programs.