The Desert Voice - Valley Voice: Lawmakers can help in cancer fight

September 4, 2017
John Hussar, Special to The Desert Sun

Assemblyman Chad Mayes, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and Sen. Jeff Stone – who all represent parts of the Coachella Valley in the Legislature – play a crucial role in the fight against cancer by passing laws that help reduce the toll of cancer, which will claim nearly 60,000 lives in California this year alone.

If state lawmakers take critical preventive measures now, they could keep thousands of people from hearing the words “You have cancer” in the future.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) recently released its annual report that illustrates where states stand on policies to prevent and better treat cancer. How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality shows that by passing proven cancer-fighting laws and policies, we can save lives, save health care dollars and create a legacy of better health. 

The 15th edition of ACS CAN’s annual report shows just how far we’ve come in the last decade and a half passing policies proven to reduce suffering and death from cancer. Cancer is still taking its toll, however; this year alone, 176,140 Californians will be diagnosed with the devastating disease.

The great news is that California measured up to ACS CAN’s cancer-fighting policy recommendations in all but two of the nine issue areas ranked. With the tremendous advancements in new tobacco control laws in 2016, California is doing more than any other state in the country to meet cancer-fighting best practice policies as recommended by ACS CAN.

Last year, voters overwhelmingly passed a tobacco tax initiative, Proposition 56, which followed a historic package of tobacco control legislation signed into law that raised the tobacco sales age to 21, classified e-cigarettes as tobacco products, closed loopholes in the state’s smoke-free workplace laws, made all K-12 schools tobacco-free and increased licensing fees for tobacco retailers and distributors.

The only ranking in which California is “in the red” is access to palliative care. California lawmakers have a chance to improve access to palliative care by passing Senate Bill 294 this legislative session. Sen. Ed Hernandez’s measure updates the hospice agency licensing statute to allow hospice agencies to provide palliative care services to patients who are not in hospice and not facing a terminal illness.

Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a disease, it treats the whole person, not just the disease, by coordinating care to address physical and emotional needs like pain, anxiety and stress throughout diagnoses, treatment and survivorship of a serious disease like cancer.

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