Cancer patients, survivors and their families from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network traveled to Olympia on Monday morning to urge lawmakers to endorse House Bill 1450, which would expand insurance coverage for biomarker testing throughout the state.
Biomarker testing is used to help determine a more specific treatment plan for a cancer patient, sparing them from unnecessary chemotherapy or radiation in cases where it may be less effective. Biomarker testing can also be useful to patients with arthritis, autoimmune conditions and rare diseases. However, many people in the state don’t have access to coverage for biomarker testing, meaning patients and their families often have to pay for these tests out of pocket or forgo them all together, according to the Cancer Action Network.
The trip to Olympia was part of the network’s annual Cancer Action Day. About 70 advocates called on the Legislature to prioritize cancer policies for residents.
Vancouver resident Libby Wymore was among those who traveled to the Capitol. At 20, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Back then, biomarker testing was not an option, but Wymore said she got lucky and went into remission after four months. Not long after, she met others from the network through Craigslist and quickly became immersed in the community.
Almost 20 years later, she’s still advocating for accessible cancer treatment and testing for all.
“I really like that aspect of being able to go talk to our legislators and ask for changes that are truly making an effect for people to avoid getting cancer or to get the preventative screenings that they need,” Wymore said. “They recognize us coming back each year. So I’m pretty excited about that.”
Although legislation for biomarker testing was enacted across eight states in 2023, not all communities benefit from the latest advancements, including communities of color, rural communities and patients from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Without action to expand coverage and access to biomarker testing, advances in precision medicine could increase existing disparities in cancer outcomes by race, ethnicity, income, and geography,” the network website states.
This year, an estimated 44,000 Washingtonians will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 13,640 will die from the disease, according to the network. To commemorate those lost, the network also hosted Lights of Hope, a tribute for those who died from cancer and the millions of survivors.
“I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to come up with a cure for cancer or anything like that, but I can go and advocate for funding, which is making a difference for cancer patients and their families,” Wymore said.
Since 2001, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), has advocated for evidence-based cancer policies, expanded access to affordable health care and cancer research funding. The Cancer Action Network is the nonprofit advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.
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