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Arizonans to urge national lawmakers to take action in fight against cancer

A candlelight vigil, Lights of Hope, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is assembled near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in honor of cancer survivors in the U.S. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PHOENIX — A dozen Arizonans will join a nationwide group descending on Washington D.C. next week to urge lawmakers to take action in the fight against cancer.

Nearly 700 current and former cancer patients, volunteers and other advocates from every state will take part in the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit and Lobby Day.

“We are bringing a delegation of 12 people to D.C. from all over Arizona. … We are going to speak to our senators and representatives about cancer research funding,” Alyss Patel, Arizona grassroots manager for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told KTAR News 92.3 FM this week.

Patel said the volunteers all have been impacted by cancer either as patients or as caregivers for a loved one.

“The stories that they bring to Capitol Hill are very powerful and go a long way in the fight against cancer,” she said.

After meeting with lawmakers Tuesday, the group will hold its annual Lights of Hope ceremony.

Cancer Action Network volunteers raise money each year by selling paper bags which are illuminated for the display at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool.

“This year we’re actually going to have 33,000 bags that line the reflecting pool, and each one symbolizes somebody that has either survived cancer themselves or somebody that we have lost to cancer,” Patel said.

“It’s a very, very powerful experience and a great chance for us to reflect on the important work of why we’re in D.C. and why this is an issue that needs a priority.”

Arizona’s volunteers raised more than $10,000 selling the bags this year. Around 20 will be dedicated to Sen. John McCain, who died in August, 13 months after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

In addition to requesting a funding increase of at least $2 billion for National Institutes of Health cancer research, the Arizona delegation will seek support for two bills.

One, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act, would improve the quality of life for cancer patients.

The other, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, would prevent some Medicare patients from getting unexpected bills after colonoscopy screenings.

“We want to make sure people are getting access to that screening that can potentially save their lives,” Patel said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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