New ACS President, a “Volunteer for Life”

Nov 17, 2011 9:15 AM ET

New ACS President, a “Volunteer for Life”

Dr. Phil Evans is a diagnostic radiologist who has specialized in breast imaging for more than 30 years. He is the Director of the Center for Breast Care at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and has been an ACS volunteer since 1985.

 As the new President of the American Cancer Society, I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to advance the Society’s incredible accomplishments of the last 98 years. Compared to 20 years ago, there are 350 more people each day in the U.S. who now celebrate a birthday due to the progress made against cancer. We know that with greater and more widespread availability and utilization of scientifically proven tests, treatments and programs, we could increase that number to 1,000 a day, and this will be our most important objective in the coming years.

As a breast cancer physician, my first experience with the ACS was as a leader in the Texas Breast Cancer Screening Project in 1984. At that time, screening mammography was not covered by insurance, and screening rates were low. A coupon from the ACS allowed women in Texas to obtain a screening mammogram for $50. During the next two years, more than 100,000 women took advantage of this program. As a result, early cancers were detected and lives were saved. Legislation was passed providing screening insurance coverage. Because of its quality assurance aspect, the project was the forerunner of the American College of Radiology’s Mammography Accreditation Program. It was an amazing experience to witness the impact the ACS could have, and I became “hooked “as a volunteer for life.

Years ago, while undergoing an evaluation for another health problem, a mass was incidentally found on my left kidney.  One of my radiologist partners told me it was cancer, and I could not believe what I heard. The devastating news was correct, and I underwent extensive surgery. It was an incredible experience to personally understand what cancer patients go through, and that experience changed my life. My belief is there is no time to waste, and the time to act is now. Today I am a very happy 15-year survivor who sincerely appreciates each day and the promise of more birthdays. 

Although tremendous progress has been made, cancer is projected to be the number one worldwide cause of death in the 21st century. We know that cancer deaths to a large extent are preventable using measures such as tobacco control, screening, vaccinations for hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV), healthy diet, increased physical activity, and moderation in alcohol use. The scientific evidence is clear, and we must act now to eliminate this disease that causes so much pain and suffering in the lives of so many. I look forward to working with my volunteer and staff colleagues to reach our objectives of more lives saved and more birthdays celebrated.