Breast Cancer Awareness: Know the risks, know your rights
If you didn’t notice from the pink uniform accents on display during the NFL football games a few weeks back - October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among women after skin cancer, and kills more women each year than any other cancer except lung cancer. All cancer types combined are responsible for almost a quarter of deaths among women, eclipsed only by heart disease. It’s a pretty big deal, and we would all be well served to know what puts us at risk and what we can do about it.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection, because early detection-as with any cancer- plays a huge role in increasing ones chance of survival. One in eight women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetimes, a ratio that has been on the rise over the past few decades. That amounts to the diagnosis of over 230,000 women a year, leading to more than 40,000 deaths. A big part of early detection and prevention beyond education, however, comes down to a matrix of insurance coverage, cost of treatment and the accessibility of services. A sizable amount of progress has been made to increase access to early detection and treatment, with the ultimate purpose of increasing survival rates, and EMILY’s List alums and candidates have led the way in that charge. Who better to address an issue that primarily affects women, than women?
Our EMILY’s List candidates and alums have been hard at work over the years to address the needs of women confronted by this deadly disease:
- Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI) was the author of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Re-Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2007. The law expanded funding and access to breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income and uninsured women.
- Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) was an original champion of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, which has raised over $60 million for breast cancer research since it was first issued in 1998.
- Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) introduced the Mikulski Amendment for Preventative Care for Women- which required insurance companies to offer free mammograms and other preventive services to women as a part of the Affordable Care Act.
- Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT- 03) is not only a cancer survivor, but she has been working for years to pass the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act. It would ensure that breast cancer patients who have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy are able to remain in the hospital 48 hours after surgery ending a practice known as “drive through mastectomies.” She introduced the bill again in January 2011, and EMILY’s List alum Rep. Shelley Berkely signed on as a co-sponsor.
- DNC Chairwoman and Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL- 20) is another breast cancer survivor, and as such introduced the EARLY Act in the House- supported by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the Senate side- in an effort to launch a national education campaign to inform women under 40 about the risks of breast cancer.
- Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued a mandate this past August extending the preventative services that must be covered by insurance plans at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act to include well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling, and many other preventative screenings for women.
Here’s to remembering and celebrating the strength and courage our Congresswomen have shown when confronted with breast cancer themselves, and to our candidates and leaders who work hard to raise funds for research and expand access to care that could prove life-saving for hundreds of thousands of women throughout the country.