Report: Illinois Falling Short on Policies to Help Cancer Patients Manage Pain

August 9, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Aug. 9, 2018 – Illinois falls short when it comes to implementing policies and passing legislation to help cancer patients manage pain, according to the latest edition of “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality.” The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released the report today.

“How Do You Measure Up?” rates states in nine specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer, including increased access to care through Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs, tobacco control policies and restricting indoor tanning devices for minors. The report also looks at whether a state provides a balanced approach to pain medication and if it has passed policies proven to increase patient quality of life.

“This report confirms that we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer,” said Shana Crews, Illinois government relations director for ACS CAN. “In 2018 alone, more than 66,000 Illinoisans will be diagnosed with cancer. We owe it to them and everyone at risk of developing the disease to pass policies that help cancer patients better manage the painful side effects of their diagnosis and treatment.”

In 2015, there were fewer than 80 state legislative proposals introduced related to pain management and opioid issues nationwide; in 2018, there have been more than 470 of these proposals. The report found Illinois is not implementing balanced pain policies and could take steps to reduce opioid abuse while ensuring patients who legitimately need these drugs maintain access to them. Many cancer patients and survivors need pain medication to live and complete even the most basic day-to-day tasks—but across the country, the wave of state legislation meant to address opioid abuse has had unintended consequences, making it harder for people with cancer or chronic diseases to access legitimate pain care.

“While our lawmakers work to address the opioid epidemic, they must reject policies that compromise access to appropriate pain management and continue to protect the needs of cancer patients and survivors who deal with pain every day,” Crews said. “Opioid abuse is a critical public health crisis that must be addressed, but the General Assembly should also fix these policies that are keeping people with serious and chronic conditions from accessing the legitimate pain care that they need.”

Nationally, the report finds that increased access to health coverage through Medicaid is the most met benchmark, with 34 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, having broadened Medicaid eligibility to cover individuals under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Smoke-free legislation is the second-most met benchmark with 25 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, considered “doing well.”

To view the complete report and details on Illinois’ grades, visit

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit


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