American Cancer Society CEO Dr. John Seffrin's View on "a Post-Election Road for Cancer Control"

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American Cancer Society CEO Dr. John Seffrin's View on "a Post-Election Road for Cancer Control"

Written by John R. Seffrin, PhD, American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network chief executive officer. It appeared in the publication Non Profit Times.
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The @amercancerceo Dr. John Seffrin's View on "a Post-Election Road for Cancer Control"
Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 8:00am

CONTENT: Article

We have new and returning governing partners in the White House and Congress to engage, or in many cases re-engage, in the fight against cancer. No one, Democrat or Republican, supports cancer. 

President Obama and Congressional leaders have an historic opportunity to make major progress against the disease Americans fear most. 

The truth is we’re at a crossroads in the fight against cancer. Nearly half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone were to stop smoking, get recommended screenings for the disease, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Thanks to advances in the early detection and treatment of the disease, there are nearly 14 million cancer survivors alive in America today. Unfortunately, more than 1.6 million Americans will still hear the words “you have cancer” this year, and more than 500,000 will die from the disease. 

Our nation must renew its commitment to bringing cancer under control as a major health problem by adopting laws and policies that help people fight the disease. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is working with lawmakers of both political parties at the federal, state and local levels to support evidence-based policy and legislative solutions that do just that. 

President Obama should start by addressing four areas that, if made a national priority in the White House and Congress, would dramatically accelerate our progress in defeating cancer. 

Investment in Cancer Research : The federal government is the single largest funder of cancer research in the world, and federally funded research has played a role in every major advance in the fight against cancer during the past four decades. Because the National Institutes of Health spends 80 percent of its budget in communities across the country, cut- ting research funding not only threatens scientific progress, it also eliminates jobs and weakens the economy. 

During the next four years, President Obama you should vigorously oppose any effort to scale back this investment. The promise of recent discoveries might never become a reality for people with cancer and their families if research funding is cut. 

Access to Health Care : It is undeniable that people with cancer and their families need access to quality, affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010, includes vital provisions that improve the ability of people with cancer and their families to access needed care by eliminating annual and lifetime limits on coverage, prohibiting coverage denials because of pre-existing conditions, guaranteeing access to lifesaving cancer screenings and refocusing the health care system on disease prevention. President Obama and congressional leaders, you must find ways to work together to implement those provisions as strongly as possible for people with cancer and other life-threatening chronic diseases. 

Tobacco Control : Big Tobacco’s toll on public health must stop. Smoking-related diseases kill roughly 443,000 Americans every year and cause one-third of all cancer deaths. We know how to stop this deadly epidemic. The White House and Congress must continue strong enforcement of the historic Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products. Elected officials at the state and local levels should support proven tobacco control measures that establish smoke-free work- places, raise tobacco taxes and fund effective tobacco cessation programs. It’s time to halt Big Tobacco’s decades-long assault on the American people. 

Quality of Life : Palliative care, a form of specialized medical care for patients facing a serious illness, is one of the fastest growing trends. It brings trained specialists together with doctors and nurses in a team-based approach to manage pain and other symptoms, explain treatment options and improve a patient’s quality of life at any age and any stage of a disease. 

Palliative care is also proven to save the health care system money. But the majority of Americans are unfamiliar with palliative care, and doctors and other health professionals often lack training in how to apply it. ACS CAN calls on the president and lawmakers to back legislation that supports palliative care research, workforce training and broad public education campaigns. 

The president and Congress have an unparalleled opportunity to lead the fight against cancer in this nation. By investing in cancer research, ensuring access to health care, implementing strong tobacco control policies and supporting palliative care legislation, elected officials can steer this country on the right road to cancer control and prevention.