Discussion Points

When contacting your Senator or Representative, please use the discussion points below.

1. Tennessee has the 19th highest cancer incidence rate and the 6th highest death rate. (per 100,000 people)

2. Radiation therapy was implemented around 1900.

60% of all cancer patients will receive some form of radiation therapy. Clinicians learned radiation also causes cancer. Therefore, it has continued to evolve to spare as much healthy tissue as possible to avoid harmful side effects such as secondary cancers or cardiovascular disease.

3. Proton beam radiation delivers more radiation to the cancer while reducing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses the unique physical properties of a proton (the Bragg-Peak) which cause little damage to tissues they pass through but are very effective in killing cells at the end of their path.

4. The FDA approved proton therapy in 1988.

Over one hundred thousand patients have benefited from proton therapy.  The nation’s first proton therapy center was at the Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC) in Loma Linda, California in 1990. The country now has 24 operating proton therapy centers, twice the number of operating centers from three years ago.  The nation’s top 10 cancer center’s either have or are in the process of gaining access to proton therapy.

5. Tennessee is fortunate to have two operating proton therapy centers and another under development.

  1. Memphis: St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
  2. Knoxville: Provision Healthcare
  3. Nashville: Provision Healthcare (opening in 2018)

6. Proton therapy can treat most tumors that traditional radiation therapy can treat and some that traditional radiation therapy cannot.

Proton therapy is most beneficial for solid tumors in proximity to other organs or a significant amount of healthy tissue that without proton therapy would receive a high dose of radiation.

7. Medicare began covering proton therapy in 1998.

Proton therapy radiates less healthy tissue than traditional radiation therapies  but commercial insurance continues to deny coverage to patients over 18 and under 64 years of age.

8. Cancer patients live 40% longer today than they did 30 years ago.

Cancer patients will likely live long enough to experience the dangerous side-effects of unnecessary radiation.

9. The Cancer Patient Choice Act is cost-neutral to insurance companies and their members.

Proton therapy allows radiation oncologists the ability to prescribe and deliver the total, curative radiation dose over fewer treatments (or “fractions”) than the number of treatments IMRT would for the same total, curative dose. This “Hypofractionation” is typically 20 treatments or less depending on the disease and patient physiology. External beam radiation therapy is reimbursed by each treatment delivered, therefore fewer treatment allow for a lower overall treatment cost.

10. The Bill provides for the coverage of proton therapy for the same indications at the same cost as a typical course of IMRT.