Recently, 50 Illinois hospitals joined together, urging Sen. Mark Kirk to support legislation that would give cancer patients a better quality of life throughout their treatments. 

As a cancer survivor, I, too, ask Sen. Kirk to sign onto this critically important bill and expand the availability of palliative care. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing patients with relief from the stress, pain and other symptoms that may come with their diagnoses. 

Rather than relying solely on one health care provider, palliative care creates a “team” of doctors, nurses and social workers to help patients work through the physical and emotional side effects of their treatment. 

This type of care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a disease. It’s all about treating the patient needs, as well as the disease itself. This is a big shift in focus for health care delivery — and it works. 

Studies have shown that palliative care patients have less severe symptoms, and their families feel more satisfied, too. By easing these painful side effects, palliative care may even increase survival rates for cancer and other serious diseases. 

But for every moment that action is not taken to improve patient access to this palliative care, many people battling cancer continue to suffer unnecessarily. 

For the sake of the 66,840 people expected to be diagnosed with cancer in Illinois this year, I urge Sen. Kirk to support this legislation.

Judy Rospenda