Cancer Votes campaign wants voters to think about how candidates will support cancer treatment

10/16/12 Seán Kinane
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A cancer-advocacy group wants voters to consider how politicians will support cancer research.

They’ve launched a campaign called Cancer Votes.

This week I spoke with Karen Moffitt, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

"If one American can fight cancer a nation can rise up to defeat it. So, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Netowrk is working to educate the public and elected officials on the importance of making cancer a national priority. This is our "cancer votes" campaign to make sure everybody understands that their votes count in the battle against cancer."

How can someone who's a voter make their vote count? What kinds of things can they look for in elected officials and in balloting issues?

"This year 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. 117 thousand are right here in Florida and 46 thousand will die so it's important that our cancer research continues, the funding. This month we've just done the Susan Komen race and we've got the American Cancer Society's Making Strides against breast cancer. We can run around in circles til the cows come home and we won't raise the necessary funding. The American Cancer Society is the largest funder of cancer research in the nation after the federal government. We raised and spent $100 million a year. The federal government spends over $3 billion a year that it funds in cancer research. So you can see there's a tremendous difference. We're making so many strides. Everyday you see breakthroughs in cancer research. Even with the Nobel Prize winners announced today you see we're making strides. So to kind of let this go now is a waste. Our elected officials in Washington decide how much money is going to be spent on cancer research. They specify the specific budget so it's important that we look for people and ask them, ask our candidates 'what are your plans?' 'do you believe in cancer research funding?'"

You also have on your website, it mentions access to affordable health care, protecting seniors with cancer, helping low and middle income Americans fight cancer, and voting in terms of cancer prevention. How can people do that when the are thinking about the candidates that they are going to the polls to vote for?

"Easy, we can ask them where they stand. We know that 60 per cent of people who get cancer are over age 65 so we need to make sure that Medicare programs are in effect and effective to protect our seniors in their battle against cancer so we can ask our candidates, 'what is your stand on Medicare? on Medicaid?' Right now 1 million Americans rely on Medicaid for their cancer care. For whatever reason that they are on Medicaid we need to ask our candidates 'what are your plans to insure that people who need the cancer care through Medicaid that there's still the funding for them to access the care they need.' It's become quite evident in these discussions on Obamacare with pre-existing conditions that we ask our candidates 'what are your plans for insurance coverage to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered?' I've spent a career working with children with cancer. You're diagnosed with leukemia at age 3 you're out of luck for getting insurance for the rest of your life. So we need to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered. We need to just ask our candidates 'what are your plans?' 'what do you want?' As far as cancer prevention the CDC, they're great in obesity and tobacco cessation, cancer prevention programs and early detection programs such as breast and cervical cancer. They spend $300 million a year on these early detection and prevention programs. We need to make sure that there's still access to that. So it's asking our candidates, 'where do you stand on these issues?' We forget, I'm a member of the Moffitt family. People often come up to me and thank me for Moffitt Cancer Center and what it's done to save members of their family. In 1981 the Florida Legislature is the one that decided that they were going to step forward, create and fund the Moffitt Cancer Center. This was a political legislative decision that's saving hundreds of thousands of lives right here in the Bay area. So we forget when we're thinking about cancer that our politicians actually affect our lives when it comes to cancer."

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