There is no better-known disease for which there is seemingly no cure than cancer. It touches each of our lives, directly or indirectly. In fact, more than 30,000 Kentuckians will discover they have cancer this year. Sadly, just over 10,000 will die from the disease. However, thanks to advancements in early cancer detection, there is something we can do about it.
Spotting cancer early is critical to survival, because once the disease spreads, it is often too aggressive and far-gone for effective treatment. That’s why colonoscopies, pap smears, and mammograms are routine preventative medicine now. If physicians catch cancer early through these screenings, the five-year survival rate hits nearly 90%. Screening has been shown to save lives.
The best proven defense in our war against cancer is access to early screening. In the past, when American innovation produced the first-generation of cancer screening technology, Congress worked swiftly to modernize outdated Medicare laws. This enabled senior citizens, who are most at-risk of cancer, to take advantage of the latest technology when it became available.
Today, with more than 100 cancer types in existence, only five have recommended screening options. The good news is that we’ve recently experienced major breakthroughs. At this moment, multi-cancer early detection (MCED) technologies are under review by the Food and Drug Administration. Some of these blood-based tests can screen for dozens of different cancers at one time.
These tests will become more common as computer science and genomic science rapidly improve. But, like the first generation of cancer screenings, they won’t become widely accessible to Medicare beneficiaries without action from our legislators in Washington.
Recently, during a House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing, Rep. Guthrie voiced his support for multi-cancer early detection and the promise that it holds to detect cancer in earlier stages and improve health care outcomes. We agree that “these tools represent another opportunity to ensure our Medicare policies strike the appropriate balance of increasing access while driving higher quality care.”
That’s why we’re urging Congress to pass the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act, which has earned support of more than 300 members of Congress, including Rep. Guthrie.
Kentucky is in a unique position to ensure that this important bill crosses the finish line. Back in March, Kentucky’s state legislature overwhelmingly passed House Bill 180, bipartisan legislation that expands coverage of biomarker testing, a screening that helps connect cancer patients with the right treatment at the right time.
Congress should follow the lead of Kentucky’s state lawmakers who have already seized the opportunity to save lives through ensuring innovation keeps pace with coverage pathways.
As anyone who has been impacted by cancer knows, it is a life-or-death disease. We simply cannot delay passage of the newly re-introduced Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act (S. 2085 & H.R. 2407).
Now is the time to chart a new course for cancer outcomes in the Commonwealth and with the right tools, we can prevent unnecessary cancer death and suffering. The first step is for Congress to pass the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act in 2023.
Together we can catch and prevent cancer early because patients are counting on it.
Amanda Smart has been the Executive of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project since 2017. She holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Louisville and is certified in six different fitness formats. In 2018 she finished educating every FQHC in Kentucky on Colon Cancer Prevention and in 2021 helped kick off the first ever digital marketing campaign in Appalachia, serving digital prevention ads to one of the highest at risk in the country.