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As a cancer survivor and caregiver, I've experienced first-hand how the mental and physical side effects of treatment can take a toll on one's quality of life. As doctors focus on the cancer treatment itself, comfort and concerns such as pain, nausea, shortness of breath, and anxiety are frequently overlooked.
That's where palliative care can help--a growing field of specialized medical care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families by focusing on symptoms of treatment for a serious disease, such as cancer. Palliative care is a big change in health care delivery, and it works in favor of the patient. Yet thousands of patients who are suffering from the side effects of treatment have no idea that palliative care is available to them and can help relieve their symptoms and help them focus on getting well.
Our elected officials have the power to improve the lives of cancer patients like me and my family members by making treatment of pain and other symptoms standard practice during the course of care. As a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, I'm asking Congressman Rob Wittman to co-sponsor legislation that gives patients more control, makes sure that their symptoms are properly managed, and provides better coordination between their doctors.
Cancer will touch everyone in his or her lifetime. Our lawmakers must take this opportunity to expand access to palliative care so patients and their families can have that extra layer of support when they need it most.
Carol L. Pesti
Ms. Pesti is a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.