Cancer experts representing Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Health System, joined members of Congress on Capitol Hill December 14 in support of the Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act, which was recently introduced.
Frank J. Penedo, Ph.D., director of cancer survivorship and supportive care at Sylvester, spoke in favor of the legislation and explained how it would fill existing gaps in cancer care.
“Despite advances in cancer care and improvements in survival, effectively meeting the chronic and debilitating needs of cancer survivors remains a challenge,” Dr. Penedo said. “The Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act proposes to implement much-needed fundamental standards of care and resources — including coverage and care coordination — to help cancer survivors live their very best possible lives.”
Dr. Penedo traveled to Washington, D.C., along with Carmen Calfa, M.D., breast medical oncologist and medical co-director of Sylvester’s Cancer Survivorship Program; Patricia I. Moreno, Ph.D., lead of evidence-based survivorship supportive care; and Jessica MacIntyre, M.S.N., ARNP, executive director of clinical operations and oncology nurse practitioner at Sylvester.
Support Throughout the Survivorship Continuum
The Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act, as introduced, would provide a lifeline to survivors and their families by addressing the entire survivorship continuum of care for survivors of all cancer types, their families, and their caregivers upon its passage. In addition to coverage and care coordination, the legislation includes support programs such as financial assistance grants to help those faced with workforce challenges.
Introducing the legislation that day were its sponsors U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), some of whom are cancer survivors themselves.
A 15-year breast cancer survivor, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, who is a key sponsor of the bill and a longtime champion for cancer survivors, said, “From the point of diagnosis, through active treatment and transitions to primary care, until the end of life, this legislation sets the standards of care that all survivors need and deserve.”
“Cancer survivors face many unmet care needs that are complex and include physical and emotional symptoms, concerns about finances and social roles, and limited care coordination. As introduced, the Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act legislation focuses on addressing the unique needs of the more than 18 million cancer survivors in the U.S.,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is proud to support this bill, which will enhance our capacity to provide essential comprehensive cancer survivorship care for the South Florida community and surrounding region upon its passage.”
More Survivors, Greater Need
The need to address gaps and create standards in cancer survivorship care is growing, as the 18 million cancer survivors in the United States today is expected to reach 26 million by 2040.
Being deeply committed to providing personalized, evidence-based care for cancer patients means thinking about their quality of life in the long term, according to Dr. Moreno.
“Our mission at Sylvester is to ensure that cancer survivors live as well as possible during and after their diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Moreno said. “Advocating for important legislation like the Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act is one more way we serve our community.”
In fact, advocacy for cancer survivors is a big part of what Sylvester does, according to MacIntyre.
“At Sylvester, we are at the forefront of cancer survivorship research and clinical care. It is important to continue to advocate for programs like these to support the millions of cancer survivors in our community and nationwide,” MacIntyre said.
For Dr. Calfa, going to the Hill to support this initiative was a “dream come true.”
“We are in this together, and this bill proves that we can use our voices, knowledge, expertise, and advocacy to make great things happen!” Dr. Calfa said.