Karcher / Madden / Weinberg Cancer Prevention Task Force Bill Advances

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Ellen Karcher, Fred H. Madden and Loretta Weinberg which would create a task force on cancer prevention, early detection and treatment in New Jersey was approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee by a vote of 7-0.

“In the past, cancer was viewed as a death sentence to anyone diagnosed with it, but now, with early detection and proper treatment, it can be beaten,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Through the task force, we hope to promote healthy choices by those at-risk of cancer, to give them the best shot possible of surviving the disease. For those already diagnosed, we want to provide the best treatment options, so that we have more people living with cancer rather than dying from cancer.”

“We want the task force to look at the most current trends in cancer research and statistics, and provide options to the Governor and the Legislature to improve our Statewide response,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “Our understanding of cancer is getting better and better as researchers start to chip away at the mysteries surrounding the disease. We want to make the State adaptive so that we’re creating policy with the best information possible.”

“Ultimately, this task force will be at the cutting edge of medicine and policy, and will give us the tools to decrease the cancer mortality rate,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, who sponsored the bill while serving in the Assembly. “New Jersey is very fortunate to have some of the best health minds in the country located here, and we have a reputation as the country’s medicine chest. The task force will put that expertise to good use in keeping New Jersey ahead of trends in cancer incidence, and will help us cut down on the number of deaths due to cancer each year.”

The bill, S-2733, would establish the “Task Force on Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Treatment in New Jersey” within the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The Task Force will be comprised of no more than 20 public members and the Commissioner of Health, and would be responsible for evaluating current trends and research into cancer incidence and mortality, with the specific goals of: reducing behavior that contributes to risk of cancer; reversing the trend of annual increase in the rate of invasive melanoma; closing the gap in cancer mortality between the total population and minorities; increasing the use of screening, especially in the elderly and minorities; and increasing the percentage of cancers diagnosed in their early stages. The task force will report to the Governor and the Legislature at least once every two years on their findings.

“Given the volume of cancer research produced each year, and the number of statistics to crunch and evaluate, this task force is going to provide a great service in giving us a big picture look at the state of cancer incidence and mortality in New Jersey,” said Senator Weinberg. “We will then be able to act on their recommendations to craft policies and regulations that will help us bring those rates down.”

The bill also directs the task force to establish a smaller workgroup on cervical cancer, which would report its findings also at least once every two years to the Governor and Legislature.

“Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women, and remains a very serious threat for women who don’t receive regular gynecological checkups,” said Senator Karcher. “One of the reasons why it’s so dangerous is that symptoms don’t usually appear until the later stages of the disease, but if detected early, it’s very treatable. We need to improve public awareness about the disease, and focus on ways to improve our rates of screening for women of all ages.”

Senator Madden also sponsored a bill, S-1679, which was approved today by the Committee and would allow New Jersey residents to voluntarily contribute to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society when they pay their State income tax. The Senator noted that supporting research is the best way to keep the State at the forefront of cancer treatment and prevention.

“When it comes to cancer, we can’t take an ostrich approach and bury our heads in the sand,” said Senator Madden. “We need to support efforts to gain a better understanding of the disease, so that one day, we will be able to finally see an end to the thousands of deaths attributed to cancer each year in New Jersey.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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