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

July 15, 2021
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 legislation to help patients better understand and respond to their cancer diagnosis. The Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act (H.R. 4414) would improve doctor-patient communication by enabling doctors to bill Medicare for the time they spend developing comprehensive cancer care plans. When provided with a plan that includes expected treatment options and symptoms, patients are better able to understand what to expect and become proactive in their own care.

“A cancer diagnosis can leave a patient with more questions than answers. While the medical community continues to make breakthroughs in treatments and research, advancements in doctor-patient communications are not following at the same pace. Less than half of all cancer patients feel adequately informed about their diagnosis and the ensuing treatment options. A written plan that explains treatments and expected symptoms would help provide some of those answers. As a cancer survivor, I am grateful to have a healthy and full life ahead of me, and I hope that my experience and this legislation will help others better navigate a diagnosis,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “I am grateful to be working with Congressman Carter to show that supporting patients isn’t a partisan issue.”

“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,” said Congressman Carter. “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.”

“When treating cancer, we look to science to understand the right treatment at the right time – what we call evidence-based medicine. But cancer care extends beyond medicine and so it makes sense again to turn again to science in order to inform other aspects of care. That’s what the Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act promotes – that each patient has a care plan in place. We know from research that such a plan leads to better outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Cancer is more than 200 different diseases, each of which has unique and varied treatment options. Doctors and patients need appropriate time to weigh those various options and select the best path forward for their situation. The Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act recognizes the importance of that time and values it accordingly so patients can receive the best care for their specific cancer diagnosis.” said Lisa Lacasse, President, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Cancer patients and survivors need a roadmap to guide their care, both during treatment and in the transition to post-treatment care,” said Shelley Fuld Nasso, Chief Executive Officer, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. “In our State of Cancer Survivorship Survey, less than 20 percent of cancer survivors received a survivorship care plan. The Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act would ensure that cancer survivors get the help they need to navigate and coordinate their care. We are grateful to Congressman DeSaulnier for his leadership in fighting for cancer patients and survivors, and we look forward to working with him to pass the CCPCA.”

“The moment people hear the words, ‘you have cancer,’ they are overwhelmed not only by uncertainty but also by tremendous amounts of complicated information that they must weigh in order to make decisions,” said Laurie Isenberg, a two-time cancer survivor from the Bay Area and advocate at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. “A cancer care plan becomes a critical tool to help cancer survivors manage all the pieces of their care before, during and after treatment. By clarifying the treatment steps, a cancer care plan promotes better discussions between cancer survivors, their support teams and care providers. It takes the fear out of the unknown and is essential in post-treatment care, helping cancer survivors and their providers work in tandem to manage future cancer risks.” 

The complete list of supporting organizations includes: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), CancerCare, Children’s Cancer Cause (CCC), Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Lacuna Loft, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, LUNGevity Foundation, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), National Patient Advocate Foundation, Susan G. Komen, and Triage Cancer.