Congress, let Medicare pay for cancer screening technologies, SC State Sen. Jackson urges

·3 min read

This year marks 50 years since the National Cancer Act signified the start of the war on cancer, but it is what happens in the next few months that could define the next phase of this war.

While there is much to applaud over these past five decades in the advancement of science and treatment, far too many are still dying of this terrible disease.

Now, though, we have an opportunity to change the way we detect cancer, which could make these treatments far more successful.

Nearly 90 new cases of cancer are being diagnosed per day in South Carolina, and over 10,000 people in our state are expected to die of the disease this year.

Looking deeper into those numbers, you can get a better sense of what needs to be done to reduce that mortality rate.

One example stands out.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, pancreatic cancer is only the ninth most frequently diagnosed type of cancer in the state.

It is, however, the fourth most common cause of death among cancer cases, and one of the variations of the disease for which we don’t have early screening technologies. Being unable to screen for and detect cancer early decreases the chance of treatments succeeding.

In fact, there are only five types of cancer – breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate – for which we have early detection capabilities.

Most cancers go undiagnosed until the patient has become symptomatic, and the cancer has metastasized. Seven of every 10 cancer deaths are from a type of the disease for which we don’t have early screening tools.

The opportunity to shape the next era of the war on cancer in South Carolina lies with new technologies called multi-cancer early detection, which can detect dozens of cancers through a routine, noninvasive blood draw.

This has the potential to revolutionize our ability to reduce cancer death rates. More patients will be able to seek treatment for cancers earlier – saving lives.

Of course, this is only if the latest cancer detection technologies are available to providers and patients, especially those most susceptible to cancer – seniors.

To do so, Congress must act.

Right now, the laws governing Medicare do not allow for coverage of new preventive health care products and services.

This isn’t a new barrier.

Congress has acted to overcome it before, passing legislation to allow Medicare to cover mammograms and colonoscopies. And Congress is poised to act again.

A bipartisan group in Congress, led by South Carolina’s own Senator Tim Scott, are stepping up to ensure MCED technologies will be accessible as soon as the Food and Drug Administration approves them.

The Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act would create a pathway to allow Medicare to cover these tests once the FDA has approved them for use.

It is my hope that all in Congress will support this important policy and make it a priority this year.

What better way for Congress to commemorate this fiftieth anniversary than by playing a vital role in shaping the future of cancer detection.

State Senator Darrell Jackson is the Senior Pastor of Bible Way Church, and represents District 21 in the State Senate.

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