New Coalition Launches Bid for Cancer Patients Bill of Rights and Multiyear Cancer Care Is Different Platform

February 5, 2021

Introduced today in the state Senate, legislation details six rights for every cancer patient in California.

Duarte, California – Today, as communities and organizations across the globe commemorate World Cancer Day, a coalition of organizations are announcing a new campaign called Cancer Care Is Different, spearheaded by City of Hope, a world-renowned National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, California Chronic Care Coalition and International Myeloma Foundation. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the adverse impact for patients that restricted access to leading cancer treatment centers, where the most advanced, life-saving therapeutics are available, causes, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to urge passage and adoption of a Cancer Patients Bill of Rights in the California Legislature.


The resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 (SCR 11), is authored by state Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and was introduced in the state Senate today.


“For many cancer patients, the best chance of being cured is the early chance at a cure,” Rubio said. “Despite remarkable advances in cancer science creating more effective treatments and cures, too many cancer patients continue to suffer from a lack of access to specialty care. That lack of access is unfortunately even more pronounced among our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights recognizes that cancer patients should receive appropriate, timely and equitable access to expert cancer care.”


“With our valued partners, City of Hope is proud to drive this effort to increase cancer patients’ access to the proper expertise and to make them aware of their rights to appropriate treatment options,” said Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., a hematologist-oncologist at City of Hope. “These needs are heightened by the reality that cancer is a complex and rapidly evolving field that requires ongoing access to the most recent knowledge, therapeutics and technology. The consequences of limited or delayed access to this expertise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are significant and can lead to misdiagnoses that can often mean unnecessary exposure to toxic chemotherapy agents, suffering or avoidable death.” Alvarnas serves as vice president of government affairs and senior medical director for employer strategy at City of Hope.


More than 187,000 Californians are diagnosed with cancer annually and thousands of these new cancer patients are misdiagnosed or placed on treatment regimens that are inappropriate or ineffective for their condition.


Cancer Patients Bill of Rights includes:· Cancer patients have a right to fully understand their diagnosis and be informed about treatment options in culturally appropriate and understandable language.


· Cancer patients have a right to a transparent and timely process that ensures direct access to an oncology specialist, diagnostic testing and accurate interpretations of those tests.


· Cancer patients have a right to timely access to cancer subspecialists who have expertise in the treatment of their subtypes of cancers when complex decisions are needed.


· Cancer patients have a right to direct and prompt access to medical treatments for pain management and other services that support their overall health.


· Cancer patients have a right to direct access to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and leading academic medical centers for the management of complex cancers that require multiple experts or high risk or emerging therapies.


City of Hope breast cancer survivor Kommah McDowell hailed the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights. McDowell went to City of Hope for a second opinion and treatment after her primary care doctor told her she was too young to have breast cancer despite a painful mass in her right breast. City of Hope breast cancer specialists diagnosed McDowell with two particularly rare and aggressive forms of breast cancer and successfully treated her with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.


“All Californians should have access to doctors that specialize in their particular cancer and diagnostic testing from the moment they suspect they might have cancer,” McDowell said. “Fighting for that right is what saved my life and I want other patients to be afforded those rights from the start — it will not only make a difference in their lives but could help save them as well.”


More about the proposed bill of rights, along with other resources and patient stories, can be found at the Cancer Care Is Different website unveiled today. Visit cancercarediff.org.

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