Helping patients live longer lives

Approximately every three minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer. This September, for Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we must commit to helping cancer patients across the country live longer, better lives.

Because of advances in medicine and treatment, blood cancer patients today have a better chance of surviving than ever before. In 1964, the five-year survival rate for children with ALL (the most common form of childhood leukemia) was 3 percent. Today, it’s approximately 90 percent — and rising. The survival rates for other blood cancers, like myeloma, have doubled or even tripled in the same period.

Survival rates are improving every day, but we won’t stop until they reach 100 percent. We need to keep funding critical cancer research to improve personalized treatments, develop medications with fewer side effects, and keep advancing cures.

And yet, right now, some cancer patients can’t access the treatments their doctors prescribe because they are oral medications or treatments that fall on a “specialty tier.” These kinds of classifications can come with such extreme costs that patients are forced to skip doses or go bankrupt just trying to stay healthy. Legislation currently in Congress could fix this by limiting patient costs, but it won’t pass without our help.

Lisa Koutek

Seattle