CHELMSFORD — State Rep. James Arciero has filed legislation to help young adults get screened for colon cancer on behalf of local cancer survivor Alexa Morell.
Morell, a Chelmsford resident, learned in September 2019 that she had stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 29, on the same day that she watched her then-13-month-old son take his first steps.
Morell, who had no medical issues before her diagnosis, visited a gastroenterologist and received a colonoscopy after finding blood in her stool. When she received her diagnosis, the cancer had already spread to her liver.
Arciero’s bill would provide public and private insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 30, as determined and directed by a primary care physician, so that people like Morell can more easily detect serious illness. It would also eliminate co-pays, deductibles, coinsurance or cost-sharing requirements for those who need to be screened for colorectal cancer.
“It’s my mission to make colon cancer screening routine for my generation just like breast exams and cervical cancer screenings,” Morell said at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Financial Services on Nov. 9. “I am incredibly passionate about advocating and sharing my story in hopes it saves just one life. I work hard to encourage people to listen to their bodies as soon as something feels off.”
Morell underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy, two liver resections, a colon resection, two video-assisted thoracoscopic lung surgeries and radiation on her right lung. She is now in remission.
Currently, health care coverage only applies to screenings at the age of 50 for individuals with a detailed family history of colorectal cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cases of young-onset colorectal cancer have increased by 51% since 1994. Someone born in 1990 has a 50% increased chance of developing colorectal cancer compared to someone born in the 1950s, according to the American Cancer Society.
“I have known Alexa’s husband, Ryan, for many years for his work at the Massachusetts State House. Alexa’s story is incredible and for her to now advocate for the well-being of others is very brave and commendable,” Arciero said. “I believe this bill will not only be cost effective in the long run for early detection of colorectal cancers and prompt treatment, but will most importantly save the lives of people across the commonwealth regardless of socioeconomic circumstances or incomes.”
Eleven other legislators have signed onto the bill, including local state Reps. Vanna Howard, Colleen Garry and Tami Gouveia and state Sen. Ed Kennedy.