Early detection of cancer is crucial for successful treatments and outcomes.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Screening increases the chances of detecting certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be curable.” Screenings involve testing for various cancers with adequate follow-up for abnormal results, and education increases awareness to understand warning signs to discuss with health care professionals.
Meet three inspiring nurses who have dedicated their careers to facilitating early cancer detection and cancer outreach education in our communities. Their missions also include being strong advocates in supporting patients whose lives have already been touched by cancer. Here is a spotlight on these professional women who are determined to confront the challenges of cancer, underscored by their ongoing commitments to the public. Joye Rozier, MPH, BSN, CSN, RN
Joye Rozier is the Coordinator for the Burlington/Camden County Regional Chronic Disease Coalition (formerly known as the Burlington County Cancer Coalition) and the Camden County Cancer Coalition. The Burlington/Camden County Regional Chronic Disease Coalition is made possible by a grant from the Office of Cancer Control and Prevention, New Jersey Department of Health/Division of Family Health Services, and the Chronic Disease and Prevention Control Program.
Joye has been involved in outreach and education for almost 30 years, and she is passionate in her commitment to Public Health. Joye’s life was profoundly impacted by cancer when she lost her paternal grandmother and aunt many years ago, and a very special sister-in-law (whom she calls her “Sister-in-Love”) was initially diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 28. Joye participated in many American Cancer Society “Making Strides” walks, and Joye considers her work at the Regional Chronic Disease Coalition to be a tribute to loved ones.
“Defense is the best offense,” is how Joye describes the importance of early detection and cancer education. She believes that it is imperative to provide accurate and current information about specific health risks to the community to lower their chances of getting cancer and other chronic diseases. One of her goals is for every female to receive breast health education even at an early age. “Most of the research states we should start at age 21, but I truly believe it starts much younger,” she said.
As a result of her strong beliefs, Joye provides annual educational workshops for girls from Girl Scout Troops, church youth groups, middle schools, and high schools. The girls receive information regarding normal breast changes, and they handle model breasts to feel for abnormalities. Joye takes pride that they provide culturally competent workshops so that the model breasts reflect all ethnicities. She has worked for many years with youth in creating a safe space for them to learn about breast cancer, and she loves empowering young women to get their baseline gynecological exam or mammogram when they reach an appropriate age.
Joye encourages women first and foremost to speak with their Primary Care Physician or Gynecologist to discuss any health concerns. She also advocates the supplemental use of technology to search for information through the American Cancer Society, NJ Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, or the Burlington/Camden County Regional Chronic Disease Coalition. Health resource information is also availableto the public through the Burlington County Government Services – County Corner located in the Moorestown Mall. Joye noted that telephone books may seem obsolete, but they still have listings of health resources; and she suggests the local libraries as well. “Many hospitals offer educational workshops and provide mailers to the community,” she said, and she encourages the community to attend workshops to ask questions and network with local professionals and community members.
During the next decade, Joye would love to see every mall, grocery store, college campus, airport, and many other facilities equipped with kiosks and monitors providing continuous information about cancer and other chronic diseases, various screenings, symptoms, and resources. She believes there is a need to continue to respond to the ever-changing world by the use of technology, even social media, while maintaining a humanistic approach. Joye said that Public Health professionals and the Public Health sector will continue integration of state and local cancer programs using Best Practices and Research based programs to ensure a decrease in cancer diagnosis. “In a perfect world, ten years from now breast cancer will be eradicated,” said Joye.
Joye’s role as Coordinator for the Burlington/Camden County Regional Chronic Disease Coalition aligns with Joye’s passion for Public Health proven by her strong sense of working with the community to empower the public to take control of their health issues.Joan Lombardi, RN, BSN
When her father passed away shortly after cancer was diagnosed at a regrettably late stage in his disease, Joan Lombardi was motivated and inspired to help educate patients on the importance of cancer screenings. She often reflects on how her father’s cancer may have been caught earlier—when there was a better chance of cure—if he had received regular, routine screenings. Through Joan’s commitment to Community Education and Outreach and as manager of the NJCEED (New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection) Program at Virtua since 2000, she has found the perfect opportunity to be an advocate for patients and to encourage them to discuss screenings and preventive care with their physicians.
The NJCEED program is part of the New Jersey Department of Health. The program provides free breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal cancer screening services for New Jersey residents who are uninsured or underinsured and meet income eligibility guidelines. The screenings include clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap smears, pelvic exams, PSA blood tests (for prostate cancer screening), and fecal occult blood testing (for colorectal cancer screening). Other services provided by NJCEED include education, outreach, case management, tracking, follow-up, and facilitation into treatment.
Early detection allows cancers to be diagnosed at an earlier stage, but Joan stresses the importance of education. “Many people are fearful of seeing their doctor, afraid of a cancer diagnosis, or have symptoms that they don’t understand or might ignore,” Joan said. She noted that removing fear and giving people the tools to make good decisions regarding health care and cancer screenings are the goals in community education. “Education is key to compliance,” she said.
Joan has enrolled more than one woman in NJCEED after they had been carrying around a referral for a breast ultrasound or diagnostic mammogram but had been afraid to have the tests performed. She said that these women believed that the lump would turn out to be cancerous and that there was no hope in sight. “The reality is that some of these women do not have cancer but, rather, a benign mass. The anxiety associated with postponing follow-up testing had, unfortunately, destroyed six months of their lives,” she said. Those who have breast cancer might have had a much better outcome if they had not delayed diagnosis. Joan recommends some of the best resources for community members through NJCEED, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, American Cancer Society, and County Cancer Coalitions. Joan said that Virtua and other hospitals have patient navigation programs that provide personalized and supportive care to patients with cancer.
Joan was once again confronted with cancer when her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer through routine screening. He was treated and has been cancer free for 10 years. He has aligned himself with Joan’s mission. According to Joan, he has been a great partner in outreach for NJCEED at Virtua by volunteering and talking to other men, one-to-one, about his experience and the importance of talking to their doctor about appropriate prostate cancer screenings.
“Education is now more important than ever in the battle against cancer,” she stressed. “I think we are already seeing guidelines for screening change, and we now have many years of data about screening that was not available 20 years ago,” she added. “But education cannot just be given in sound bites on TV or blogs on the Internet,” she said. Joan encourages the public to speak to their physicians about which screenings are needed, and learn when they need to be screened based on their health and family history. As manager of the NJCEED Program at Virtua, Joan’s commitment to cancer education is an ongoing fulfillment of her strong belief in cancer screenings. This is demonstrated by her endless support in helping patients learn how routine screenings go hand-in-hand with maintaining good health.Evelyn Robles-Rodriguez, RN, MSN, APN-C, AOCN
In 1984, Evelyn Robles-Rodriguez visited her family in the Dominican Republic, and she witnessed her family caring for her grandmother as she received breast cancer treatments. While Evelyn observed the difficulties faced by families confronting cancer, her interest in nursing sparked. Her nursing career began in a step-down critical care unit, but she realized her calling while working with pediatric and adult cancer patients. When Evelyn was offered a minority scholarship for her master’s in oncology nursing with training as a nurse practitioner, she relished the opportunity and in 1996, she was part of the first graduating class of Oncology Nurse Practitioners from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
Evelyn wanted to work with impoverished communities, and she was soon intrigued about
a nurse educator position at Cooper University Hospital. Evelyn hesitated though, since she really wanted to use her newly acquired practitioner skills, but with the Director of Cooper Cancer Institute Dr. Generosa Grana’s guidance Evelyn embraced a schedule that permitted her to work in both community education and as an oncology nurse practitioner. She eventually became involved in the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection (NJCEED) Program at Cooper, was offered to head the CEED program, and is now Director of Oncology Outreach Programs at Cooper Cancer Institute.
Evelyn is passionate about education and outreach, especially of underserved communities. She stresses that it takes a team effort to develop successful programs. “We have strong support from the NJCEED staff at the state level as well as Susan G. Komen Philadelphia and Central and South Jersey and the Avon Breast Health Outreach Program. Cooper Hospital helps us out financially, and provides 100 free mammograms per year to meet the overwhelming need for screening through our program. We have phenomenal outreach workers and staff as well, who are dedicated to our program and the Camden community,” said Evelyn.
Evelyn emphasizes the power of education in their outreach programs. “Through education, informed decisions can be made that can change not only the life of the individual educated, but also the lives of those around him or her,” she said. Cooper University Hospital’s outreach programs show that patients who are educated about screenings, and their risks and benefits, are more likely to return for yearly screenings and when there is an abnormality. “We screened over 2,200 women for breast and cervical cancer last year and 25 cancers were diagnosed; 12 of them were stage 0, the earliest breast cancer stage. Without screening, those individuals might have been diagnosed with late disease later in life,” said Evelyn.
Many women in Camden County are not aware of the Camden County Cancer Screening Project (Cooper’s NJCEED program for Camden County), and Evelyn explains that it was one
of the first pilot programs in New Jersey for breast and cervical cancer screening. They provide education in people’s homes, churches, community organizations, and local schools, where they address myths and fears about mammograms. Since NJCEED provides free breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal cancer screenings for eligible residents in every New Jersey county, they promote awareness through flyers, community partners, educational seminars, and outreach. NJCEED, Komen, and Avon pay for transportation or parking for those eligible. Patients can be screened at certain facilities during off hours to avoid conflicts during working hours, and Evelyn urges using family members or neighbors for help with childcare. Evelyn noted that they have clinics dedicated to the Vietnamese and Indian communities, and they have Latino nurses and outreach workers. Cancer survivors offer supportive testimonials, and dedicated case managers and patient navigators can attend appointments with patients.
In Evelyn’s never-ending quest for better screening, she looks forward to developing new tools to reach the community, and she has formed strong relationships with colleagues and organizations with similar ideals. She foresees consensus among the medical community about screening guidelines. “A better educated community as a whole can be more pro-active about the choices they make regarding their health care,” she says. Evelyn’s position as Director of Oncology Outreach Programs is illustrative of her dedication to cancer care as she undertakes her mission for early cancer screenings to enable patients to live healthy and productive lives. Thanks to these three women advocates in our community, cancer screenings and cancer education will go a long way to reduce cancer-related mortality, since treatment for cancer is increasingly effective when detected early. Remember that screenings save lives!
As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman