American Cancer Society says Wisconsin “falling short”

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network says Wisconsin is “falling short” when it comes to policies and legislation that improve quality of life for cancer patients.

The group suggests state lawmakers do more to improve access to palliative care by creating an advisory council of state experts. It recommends making information more readily available, increasing educational opportunities for those going into medicine, and screening patients routinely for “potential palliative care needs.”

That’s from a recent report from the organization, “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality.”

Sara Sahli, Wisconsin government relations director for ACS CAN, says an estimated 33,000 people in the state will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

“This report confirms that we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer,” Sahli said. “We owe it to them to ensure their quality of life throughout their diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.”

Sahli notes that 23 other states have already established advisory councils on palliative care.

“We made great progress on this issue last session but never got it across the finish line,” she said. “We will be making this a top priority when the 2019 session begins.”

Though palliative care is meant for those with serious illnesses, report authors note that it’s not the same as end-of-life care. They say palliative care is appropriate “at any age and any stage of disease” and can go along with standard curative treatments.

Palliative care is specialized, team-based and aims to provide relief from symptoms, pain and stress.

The report shows cancer patients getting palliative care during chemotherapy are more likely to finish treatment, stay in clinical trials and report a higher quality of life, citing a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Research demonstrates that palliative care improves symptom distress, quality of life, patient and family well-being and, in some settings (e.g., advanced lung cancer), survival,” report authors said.

The report includes several maps showing how states stack up for a number of measures related to cancer.

It shows Wisconsin’s cigarette excise tax rates are higher than the national average — $2.52 compared to $1.75.

However, it shows the state’s fiscal year 2018 funding for tobacco control is between 1 percent and 24.9 percent of the CDC-recommended funding level. That’s compared to states like Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Montana and Colorado, where funding is between 25 percent and 49.9 percent of CDC-recommended funding. Only North Dakota, California and Alaska have put over 50 percent of the CDC-recommended level into tobacco control programs.

And Wisconsin is one of the states without laws prohibiting tanning for minors without exception.

See the full report here:

–By Alex Moe