North Dakota Cancer Advocate in Washington, DC

Local Cancer Advocate in Nation's Capitol to Urge Federal Lawmakers to Make Cancer a Top Priority

September 15, 2016

Bismarck, ND – September 14, 2016 – This week, more than 700 cancer patients, survivors, volunteers and staff from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district came together in Washington, D.C., as part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. Advocates urged Congress to take specific steps to make cancer a national priority and help end a disease that still kills more than 1,600 people a day in this country.

Ellen Schafer from Bismarck met with Senator John Hoeven to discuss the need to support an increase in federal funding for cancer research. She also asked them to advance legislation that works to improve patients’ quality of life, and to support legislation that would close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine colonoscopy. 

“This year, nearly 1.7 million Americans will hear the words ‘you have cancer.’ Congress has a critical role to play in helping us reduce that number in the future. As someone who has been touched by cancer, I am urging Congress to commit to ending cancer as we know it by increasing federal funding for cancer research, supporting improvements to patient quality of life and eliminating surprise costs for seniors getting colorectal cancer screenings, said Schafer who is the lead ACS CAN ambassador for North Dakota. “Making these lifesaving policies a priority and moving them forward this year will help eliminate death and suffering from cancer.” 

Here’s is the message volunteers took to Congress:
•    Support an increase of $680 million for the National Cancer Institute. Each dollar Congress cuts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) budgets puts us one step further away from offering hope to the lives of so many Americans.
•    Advance legislation to improve the quality of life of cancer patients with better access to palliative care.  From the moment a person hears “you have cancer,” they may deal with pain, stress, and other side effects. Sometimes the problem is made worse by poor coordination among the doctors, nurses and specialists on a patient’s treatment team. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an extra layer of support widely available to patients and their caregivers called palliative care. 
•    Support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screenings Act. An estimated 135,000 people in America will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 50,000 people will die from the disease this year alone. Compounding this tragedy is the fact that half of all colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented each year if everyone over the age of 50 received screening. Studies show that patient cost-sharing is a consistent barrier to screening. While -cost-sharing has been mostly eliminated in the private insurance market, seniors on Medicare can still get hit with a surprise bill if a polyp is found during a screening colonoscopy.  By passing this legislation to fix this glitch in Medicare, Congress could help meet the goal of getting 80 percent of eligible Americans regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. 

“We need a full and unwavering commitment from Congress to take action to help prevent and treat cancer,” said Schafer. “One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Their lives may depend on the decisions made by our lawmakers today - we can’t afford further delays. We want Congress to know that volunteers from North Dakota, and from every state across the country, are counting on them to take action now.”

Before meeting with their legislators, cancer advocates attended training sessions on communicating with elected officials, conducting grassroots activities in their communities and engaging the media. 

The ACS CAN Lobby Day culminated with an evening Lights of Hope ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool featuring more than 20,000 lights lit in honor of a cancer survivor or to memorialize a loved one who lost his or her life to the disease. 

ACS CAN is the non-profit, non-partisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit 

More Press Releases AboutNorth Dakota

Media Contacts

Kim Kuhlmann
North Dakota Grassroots Manager
Mandan, ND
Steph McCorkel
Associate Director, Media Advocacy, Western Region
Sacremento, CA