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VIEWPOINT: Blood tests, early detection and the hope for South Dakota
Guest column by Ashley Kingdon-Reese, South Dakota Nurses Association
Cancer continues to cast a large shadow on our population in South Dakota. It is the leading cause of death in our state and, according to the American Cancer Society’s projections, nearly 1,800 South Dakotans will die of the disease this year.
One of the most significant factors in surviving cancer is diagnosing the disease when it is in its early, highly treatable stages.
We believe that the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Act is a critical step in the right direction. It is a testament to the commitment of our elected officials to prioritize the health and well-being of their constituents. The potential impact of this legislation is immense. It could mean the difference between life and death for many South Dakotans. By making these tests more accessible, we can ensure that more people are diagnosed early, when treatment is most effective. This could significantly reduce the number of cancer-related deaths in our state. Moreover, this legislation could also help alleviate the burden on our healthcare system. By catching cancer early, we can potentially avoid costly and intensive treatments that are often required for late-stage cancer. This could free up resources and allow our healthcare providers to focus on other pressing health issues. We understand that there are many challenges facing our healthcare system, and that there are no easy solutions. However, we believe that the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Act is a step in the right direction. It is a practical and effective way to address one of the most pressing health issues facing our state.
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Currently, we only have traditional detection technologies for five types of cancer – breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate – and we can only screen for one type of cancer at a time. This is why a newly-developed medical innovation, a blood test that can detect multiple types of cancer simultaneously, could be a game-changer for our state. This advancement would greatly enhance our current cancer screening capabilities, allowing for the detection of multiple cancer types with a single blood draw. This could have a significant impact on rural states like ours. Not all doctor’s offices or community health centers have the facilities to perform mammograms or colonoscopies, but all can administer a blood test. This diagnostic breakthrough could enable more South Dakotans to detect cancer early, thereby improving quality of life and saving lives. Despite the higher susceptibility of older people to cancer, Medicare currently cannot provide timely coverage for these tests, even after FDA approval. Without a clear route to coverage, these tests could be delayed in the federal bureaucracy for months or even years before Medicare beneficiaries can benefit from them.
We urge our fellow South Dakotans to join us in supporting this important legislation. Let's stand together and fight for a future where no one has to face a late-stage cancer diagnosis because they couldn't get screened in time. Let's stand with Sen. Mike Rounds and make early detection a reality for all South Dakotans. In conclusion, we believe that the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Act is a beacon of hope for South Dakota. It is a testament to the power of innovation and the importance of access to healthcare.
We are grateful for Sen. Rounds' leadership on this issue, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact this legislation will have on the health and well-being of our fellow South Dakotans.
Ashley Kingdon-Reese is a MBHCA, BSN, RN, LNC (C), and government relations chairperson for the South Dakota Nurses Association.