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Representatives DeSaulnier and Carter Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Patients Better Understand and Navigate a Cancer Diagnosis

July 23, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), co-chairs of the Congressional Cancer Survivors Caucus, announced bipartisan legislation to help patients better navigate their cancer diagnosis. The Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act (H.R. 3835) would improve doctor-patient communication by enabling doctors to bill Medicare for the time they spend developing comprehensive cancer care plans. These plans provide outlines of expected treatment options and symptoms – making patients more aware of what is to come and more active participants in their own care.

“Medical breakthroughs are at an all-time high, but advancements in doctor-patient communications are not keeping pace. We know that less than half of all cancer patients feel adequately informed about their diagnosis. Without a written plan explaining treatments and expected symptoms, patients are often left with more questions than answers. As a cancer survivor, who is grateful to have a healthy and full life ahead of me, I hope that my experience and this legislation will help others better navigate a diagnosis. I am grateful for the support of my co-chair Congressman Carter on this effort,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier.

“As a pharmacist for more than 30 years, I have cared for many cancer patients and survivors and I also have personal experience dealing with my father’s battles with cancer,” said Congressman Carter. “I’ve seen firsthand that cancer patients should be focused on getting better instead of trying to navigate the complexities of their diagnosis without clear direction or knowing what to expect from their care, especially as cancer treatment choices become more advanced. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with my friend Congressman DeSaulnier to help provide a personalized written roadmap for patients as they fight against cancer through diagnosis, treatment and survivorship care.”

“The Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act is a bipartisan effort that would significantly improve the quality of cancer care patients receive in Medicare,” said National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship CEO, Shelley Fuld Nasso. “Care planning, including the provider-patient discussions about cancer care, would go a long way to alleviating some of the anxiety patients experience before, during, and after treatment. The CCPC Act would help both providers and patients with the tools and resources to manage and coordinate their care from active treatment throughout survivorship. NCCS commends Reps. DeSaulnier and Carter for their leadership in fighting for cancer patients and survivors, and we look forward to working with them to pass the CCPC Act.”

“Cancer is a complicated disease that often requires patients and doctors to carefully weigh numerous treatment options. Whether patients are newly diagnosed or are already undergoing treatment, they need to have adequate time with their doctors to make clear decisions about their care. The Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act recognizes and values that time and is essential to ensuring patients receive the care that best suits their needs,” said Lisa A. Lacasse, President, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Cancer survivors need all the support they can get,  both during the early stages of diagnosis and treatment, but maybe, more importantly, once it is initially over.  All levels of support can be greatly enhanced with a cancer care plan,” said Susan Leigh, a four-time cancer survivor and retired oncology nurse. “By promoting more in-depth discussions between providers and the families they care for, these plans act as roadmaps to identify risks, coordinate care, and reduce fears after treatment ends.”

“We commend the Congressional Cancer Survivors’ Caucus co-chairs for advancing this important legislation,” said Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “It’s thrilling to be part of a new revolution of how we treat cancer using immunotherapies and many other transformative approaches to cancer therapy. We believe in research-inspired cancer care, and cancer care planning and communication is an integral part of ensuring that patients receive the right treatment at the right time. That’s what the Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act promotes.”

The complete list of supporting organizations includes: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), CancerCare, Cancer Legal Resource Center, Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy (CCCA), Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Lacuna Loft, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, LUNGevity Foundation, Lymphoma Research Foundation, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), National Patient Advocate Foundation, Susan G. Komen, Triage Cancer, University of Virginia Cancer Center, and ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer.