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Biomarker Testing and the Treatment of Cancer

By Carol A. Coram, Ed.D

The word is biomarkers. The first thing I would think of is my high school and college biology classes. Then the multicolor markers I use to highlight and write with. It turns out a biomarker has to do with medical tests that provide specific information on how to treat chronic diseases such as cancer. It makes me wonder if the many lives affected by cancer that I have been associated with, (like my mother, grandmother, other family members, friends and colleagues) would still be alive and well if they had access to biomarker testing. Biomarker testing is particularly important for Black women and men diagnosed with cancer. Did you know that Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women? Did you know that a prostate cancer diagnosis is 73% higher for Black men than white men? As a matter of fact, Black people have the highest death rates than any other race and ethnicity in the US for most types of cancer.

Here is why biomarker testing is crucial. Black people get cancer for different reasons than their white counterparts. Therefore, treatments have to be different. Biomarker testing pinpoints the type of treatment that will be effective. Why should you go through multiple treatments when a simple biomarker test will determine what is best for you as an individual? Why should you spend more time to see what works? It could be weeks or longer. Why should you and your family have to go through the stress that is involved? Why should you have to pay for something that important when it should be covered by your health insurance?

There are 14 states in which biomarker testing is covered by insurance. Unfortunately, Washington is not one of them. House Bill 1450 (entitled Concerning coverage for biomarker testing) has gone before our state legislators in Olympia for two years. How many lives do we have to lose until this bill is moved through and passed?

How can you help? Google HB 1450 – Washington State Legislature. Scroll down to the space where you can send a comment on this bill to your legislators. You will have to fill in your home address to verify which legislative district you live in. Then fill in your contact information. Below that is a space to fill in your comment. No emojis please. Then hit Send Comment. Feel free to use this as your message: Please pass HB 1450 on biomarker insurance coverage so more people can survive and be cured of chronic diseases like cancer.

Your messages will go a long way to ensuring the celebration of more birthdays and holidays with your loved ones.

Carol A. Coram, Ed.D. is the Washington State Lead Ambassador for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). She is also a member of the ACS CAN Black Volunteers Caucus. ACS CAN does the lobbying in Washington, DC and state capitals for the American Cancer Society.



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