Cancer Care Advocates Call for Fair, Timely, and Transparent Access to Doctor-Recommended Cancer Treatments on National Cancer Survivors Day

Alliance for Proton Therapy Access celebrates the lives of cancer survivors

By Alliance for Proton Therapy Access | June 1, 2018

WASHINGTON––The Alliance for Proton Therapy Access will celebrate cancer survivors across the country, including those who have received proton radiation therapy, as part of National Cancer Survivors Day, June 3rd. The annual day of commemoration recognizes the more than 15.5 million Americans who have overcome cancer and are living fruitful, rewarding lives.

“Today the Alliance honors all cancer survivors and acknowledges the special contribution of those working to improving others’ chances of surviving this deadly disease,” said Cathleen McBurney, a Board member of the Alliance and former proton therapy recipient. “As a cancer survivor, I know how hard it is to fight this disease, and I also know that too many people who should be dedicating all of their time and energy to battling cancer must also fight with their insurer to get the treatment their doctors recommend. I am proud to work with a dedicated group of cancer survivors, patients, family members, and allies who are advocating for a better system – one that ensures cancer patients get the care they need and deserve – when they need it.”

The Alliance is working to expand cancer patients’ access to proton therapy, an FDA-approved treatment that allows physicians to precisely target cancer cells. Because there is limited impact to surrounding healthy tissue, with proton radiation there is less risk of patients experiencing negative side effects or secondary cancers compared to traditional radiation. A new report released by the Alliance, Care Denied: The Broken State of Patient Access to Proton Therapy, details the physical, emotional and financial stress patients endure because private insurers routinely delay or deny proton therapy. The report, based on data collected from proton therapy centers, found more than 60 percent of cancer patients whose doctors prescribe proton therapy are initially denied by private insurers.

For many patients, including McBurney, proton therapy is the only treatment option, underscoring the urgency of payment decisions by insurers. After she was diagnosed with an extremely rare head and neck cancer in 2013, she was told the tumor in her sinus cavity was inoperable and that traditional radiation put her at risk of permanent eye damage and other harmful side effects.

“Without proton beam therapy, I would not be alive today. It has also given me a quality of life that would not have been possible with any other treatment,” said McBurney. “It’s hard enough surviving cancer without having to battle your insurer along the way.”

The Alliance is calling on insurance commissioners in all 50 states to adopt and enforce the principles of a Cancer Patients’ Timely Treatment Bill of Rights and hold insurers accountable for providing fair, timely, and transparent access to cancer treatment.