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Life-saving cancer care must be protected
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As a radiation oncologist at Covington's Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia - Newton County, every day I am able to witness the positive impact that innovations in cancer care have on patients' lives, particularly in the field of radiation oncology. Recent advancements in technology have extended and greatly enhanced the quality of life for many people right here in our community who have been diagnosed with potentially deadly cancers.

Newer precision-targeted radiation therapy allows physicians to effectively damage cancer cells so that they die and cannot reproduce - all while protecting the healthy cells and tissue around them. Today, we are able to increasingly treat cancer patients in a less invasive manner by minimizing side effects, so that they are able to continue living their lives, remain active in their communities and maintain their jobs as they work hand-in-hand with us to battle a life-threatening disease. Simply put, radiation therapy is a game changing treatment that, for many, has positively altered the experience of being a person living with cancer.

The increasing availability of community-based cancer centers like ours is allowing individuals to receive high quality, state-of-the-art care close to home. Patients living in rural communities are no longer required to drive hours from home to the next big city for daily treatments in order to receive the highest standard of care.

Unfortunately, in this environment of seemingly ever-constant change, the radiation therapy community has repeatedly faced potential cuts to Medicare reimbursement for our patients' cancer care services. And while stable, predictable reimbursement is important for all areas of medicine, it is particularly critical in cancer care to ensure that patients' access to life-saving care is not jeopardized.

Our facility was recently visited by Representative Rob Woodall (GA-7), at which time we had the opportunity to showcase some of the latest advancements in radiation oncology offered at our facility, explain the value of community-based cancer therapy centers and discuss some of the important issues facing the radiation oncology community. It is reassuring to know that Representative Woodall and other leaders in Washington have sincere interest in learning more about the value of radiation therapy in their own communities and making sure that patients continue to receive access to the highest-quality of care in their community.

A critical component of winning the war on cancer will continue to be the development and availability of advanced treatment options. As President Obama, policymakers and health care industry experts work together to solve our nation's budget deficit and reform our health care system, we must work to develop sound health care policy that promotes further innovation and patient access to groundbreaking and life-saving treatments.

Frederick Schnell, M.D., radiation oncologist at Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia - Newton County.