As a nurse I’ve had a unique vantage point from which to watch our country fight an increasingly successful war against cancer. When I first began my nursing career, this wasn’t the case. Cancer was the dreaded "C" word that people whispered in hushed tones and wouldn’t talk about in public. Even thirty years ago a diagnosis of cancer was a virtual death sentence for all but a few patients. Fortunately we’ve made significant progress in detection and treatment since then, but cancer is still a disease that affects many of us. Today, more than 10 million Americans are living with cancer and this year alone another million will be diagnosed with cancer. When individuals receive a cancer diagnosis, they begin a life-long quest for comprehensive cancer care and a high quality of life.

Providing comprehensive care for cancer patients and helping them make a successful transition from patient to survivor is an important part of our current fight against cancer. While the search for a cure to end cancer continues, we are fortunate to be living in a country where it is possible to survive this terrible disease. Over the last 25 years we’ve seen a significant increase in the population of cancer survivors and it’s important that we remember to address the health needs of these individuals by providing thorough follow-up care.

To address these gaps in current cancer care, my colleague, Rep. Tom Davis (VA) and I introduced the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act (CCCIA) to help cancer patients and survivors meet the unique challenges presented by this disease.

The Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act would create a system for healthcare providers to develop comprehensive treatment plans, care summaries and follow-up care plans in consultation with their patients. Additionally, the bill would (1) establish grant programs to enhance the professional education and training related to symptom control and palliative care, (2) establish grants to expand and evaluate model programs for integrated cancer care, and (3) increase funding for research in the field of palliative care and symptom management.

As a nurse, I know that by investing in comprehensive care and enhanced treatment plans for individuals diagnosed with cancer we can realize substantial improvements in cancer care while we continue to search for a cure. I hope this bipartisan, common sense bill moves quickly through the legislative process and becomes law so we can ensure that all cancer patients and survivors receive the quality care they deserve.