Next week more than 600 cancer patients, survivors, volunteers and staff from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district will unite in Washington, D.C., as part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. Advocates will urge Congress to take specific steps to make cancer a national priority and help end a disease that still kills 1,600 people a day in this country.
Allison Hubbard from Dallas will meet with U.S. Representative Pete Sessions and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz next week to discuss the need to support an increase in federal funding for cancer research and prevention. She also will ask them to co-sponsor legislation that supports patients’ quality of life, and to support legislation that would close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine colonoscopy.
“Congress has a critical role to play in the fight to defeat a disease that kills an estimated 500,000 people in America every year. As a cancer advocate, I will let U.S. Representative Sessions and U.S. Senators Cornyn and Cruz know that Congress can demonstrate a commitment to the fight against cancer by increasing federal funding for cancer research and prevention, co-sponsoring patient quality of life legislation and eliminating surprise costs for seniors getting colorectal cancer screenings," said Hubbard, ACS CAN volunteer. “Making these lifesaving policies a priority will help to eliminate death and suffering from cancer.”
Specifically, Hubbard and other volunteers will ask their members of Congress to:
- Increase funding for cancer research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and for prevention programs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Freezes and cuts in federal funding for NCI and the CDC in recent years have put continued progress in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in jeopardy. Nearly half of all cancer deaths are preventable, but inadequate funding for groundbreaking research and critical screening programs could cost countless lives. In 2013, Texas research institutions received $208,005,197 in funding from the NCI and the state’s National Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program received $6,205,712 from the CDC to support lifesavings cancer screenings for low-income women.
- Co-sponsor legislation to improve the quality of life of cancer patients with better access to palliative care. From the moment a person hears “you have cancer,” they may deal with pain, stress and other side effects. Sometimes the problem is made worse by poor coordination among the doctors, nurses and specialists on a patient’s treatment team. Patients can receive an extra layer of support, called palliative care, which improves patients’ quality of life at any age and at any stage of illness. ACS CAN supports bipartisan legislation that would make palliative care more available to people who need it.
- Co-sponsor the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screenings Act. An estimated 150,000 people in America will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 50,000 people will die from the disease this year alone. Compounding this tragedy is the fact that half of all colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented each year if everyone over the age of 50 received screening. The biggest barriers to screening are co-pays and other patient costs. The new health care law waives co-pays for proven screenings for colorectal and other cancers, but Medicare patients can still get hit with a bill if a polyp is found during the procedure. ACS CAN supports legislation that ensures seniors receive those screenings without facing an unexpected bill. By passing this legislation, Congress could help meet the goal of getting 80 percent of eligible Americans regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
“One in two men and one in three women will hear the words ‘you have cancer’ in their lifetime. We need a full and unwavering commitment from Congress to take action to help prevent and treat cancer,” said Hubbard, ACS CAN volunteer. “We want our lawmakers to know that volunteers from Texas, and from every state across the country, are counting on them to take a stand.”
Before meeting with their legislators, cancer advocates will attend training sessions on communicating with elected officials, conducting grassroots activities in their communities and engaging the media.
The ACS CAN Lobby Day will culminate with an evening Lights of Hope ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool featuring thousands of lights lit in honor of a cancer survivor or to memorialize a loved one who lost his or her fight with the disease.
ACS CAN is the nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.